The Colorado Department of Corrections confirmed 62 allegations of sexual misconduct against its employees and private contractors between 2005 and 2007, but few employees faced serious criminal consequences for violating laws that bar illicit contact between jailers and the jailed, reports the Denver Post. Experts say preventing the abuse of inmates can occur only if there is real punishment for the perpetrators.
Relationships between corrections officers and inmates are not uncommon. Given the authority corrections officers hold over inmates, such encounters are always considered by the law to be coercive sexual abuse. In June, a federal judge chastised the state, saying sexual abuse of inmates is a “distressing problem” in Colorado prisons. A Denver Post analysis of complaints filed with the state found that the sexual encounters with inmates are frequent in some prisons, and sometimes flaunted. Nude photos of a female corrections sergeant were found in one prisoner’s cell. Sexual abuse of inmates occurred in an electrical closet, staff bathroom and law library. Law Prof. Brenda Smith of American University in Washington, D.C., said correctional employees who sexually abuse inmates rarely serve time. Smith, who served on a federal commission on prison rape, said prison and jail time is an essential deterrent to preventing the problem, along with more supervision and training of officers and jail staffers.