Over the past decade, the number of complaints about staff sexual misconduct in Washington prisons has more than quadrupled, reports the Seattle Times. In 2014, complaints hit 216. Prison officials said they look into every complaint. But only about one in seven is substantiated, meaning some form of discipline was taken against the staff. The cases run the gamut from coerced rape to the seemingly consensual. Female prison staffers make up the majority of perpetrators nationwide, but DOC doesn't generally track the gender of staffers accused of abuse.
In Washington, prison staffers commit a crime whenever they have sexual contact with an inmate, even if both insist it was consensual. Part of Washington's increase in sex-abuse complaints can be explained by the 2003 federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which requires prisons to improve tracking of sexual misconduct complaints against staffers. In cases in which sexual contact is confirmed, if the prison guard or staffer is female, the relationship “appeared to be willing” 84 percent of the time, according to the authors of a Department of Justice study examining cases from 2009 to 2011. In incidents committed by male staff, only 37 percent appeared to be willing.