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Gao Women in Prison Sexual Misconduct 1999

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United States General Accounting Office

GAO

Report to the Honorable
Eleanor Holmes Norton
House of Representatives

June 1999

WOMEN IN PRISON
Sexual Misconduct by
Correctional Staff

GAO/GGD-99-104

GAO

United States
General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548
General Government Division

B-282772
June 22, 1999
The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
House of Representatives
Dear Ms. Norton:
As you requested, this report addresses two questions about staff-on1
inmate sexual misconduct in women’s prisons:
• What are the applicable laws, policies, and procedures for addressing such
misconduct?
• What are the number, nature, and outcome of allegations that have been
made in recent years?
As agreed with your office, the report focuses on four jurisdictions. These
are the nation’s three largest correctional systems for women offenders—
the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the California Department of
Corrections, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice—and the
correctional system in the jurisdiction you represent, the District of
Columbia. At calendar year-end 1998, the 3 largest systems collectively
held over one-third of the nation’s approximately 80,000 female prisoners.
Comparatively, female offenders held by the District of Columbia
Department of Corrections totaled about 320 at year-end 1998. We
performed our work from December 1998 to May 1999 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards. Appendix I presents
detailed information about our scope and methodology.

Results in Brief

During the 1990s, most U.S. correctional jurisdictions have recognized that
staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct is a problem that should not be
tolerated. As of April 1999, the federal government, 41 states (including
California and Texas), and the District of Columbia had passed laws
criminalizing certain types of staff sexual misconduct in prisons. Also,
most U.S. correctional systems have participated in training to help them
develop and implement applicable policies and procedures to address such
misconduct. The four correctional systems we studied have or were in the

1

Staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct can cover a wide range of inappropriate verbal, visual, and
physical behaviors, such as using lewd language or making sexual remarks, observing an inmate’s
personal activities (e.g., showering) without a sound penological reason, and engaging in sexual
contact or acts with or without an inmate’s consent (e.g., touching, kissing, abuse or assault,
intercourse, rape, etc.). Depending on its nature and applicable law, staff sexual misconduct may
involve either noncriminal or criminal acts.

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process of developing specific policies that prohibit staff sexual
misconduct.
While laws and policies could help minimize staff sexual misconduct, our
work in four jurisdictions indicates that such misconduct still occurs.
According to data provided by the 3 largest jurisdictions, during calendar
years 1995 to 1998, female inmates in these jurisdictions collectively made
a total of 506 allegations of staff sexual misconduct, of which 92 (or 18
percent) were sustained. Most of the sustained allegations resulted in staff
resignations or employment terminations. Further, the full extent of staff
sexual misconduct is unknown since two of the three jurisdictions (BOP
and Texas) did not provide data on all types of allegations. The District of
Columbia provided data for December 1995 to June 1998, during which 12
(or 11 percent) of 111 female-inmate allegations were sustained and
resulted in staff resignations or disciplinary actions ranging from
suspensions to employment terminations. Of the four jurisdictions studied,
only BOP reported having any criminal prosecutions with convictions
under sexual misconduct laws during 1995 to 1998. All four jurisdictions
were involved in at least two civil lawsuits related to staff sexual
misconduct during this period.
Officials in the four jurisdictions cited lack of evidence as the primary
reason why more allegations were not sustained. The officials told us that
most allegations involved verbal harassment, improper visual surveillance,
improper touching, and/or consensual sex. The officials noted that
allegations involving rape and other types of forced sexual assault were
relatively rare. Generally, however, none of the four jurisdictions we
studied had readily available, comprehensive data or reports on the
number, nature, and outcomes of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct
allegations. The absence of such systemic data or reports makes it difficult
for lawmakers, corrections management, and others to effectively address
staff sexual misconduct issues in federal prisons.
We are making a recommendation to the Director, BOP, to develop
systems and procedures for monitoring, analyzing, and reporting
allegations of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct in federal prisons.

Staff Sexual
Misconduct Issues
Have Received
Attention in the 1990s

Generally, “sexual misconduct by correctional staff” refers to any type of
improper conduct of a sexual nature directed at prisoners. Given the near
total control and power imbalance inherent in a prison environment, there
is widespread consensus among correctional officials, advocacy groups,
and others that sexual misconduct by correctional staff should not be
tolerated.

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During the 1990s, sexual misconduct by correctional staff against female
inmates became a matter of increased concern for many correctional
agencies. In addition to the large increase in the female inmate population,
this concern, according to a 1996 report by BOP’s National Institute of
2
Corrections (NIC), was largely driven by two sources of external pressure.
Specifically, the 1996 report noted that, within the past 5 years:
• At least 23 departments of corrections had faced class action or individual
damage suits related to sexual misconduct.
• Most state legislatures had passed laws either making certain types of
sexual misconduct a criminal offense or increasing the penalties for the
offense.
Also, during the 1990s, the Justice Department has filed civil lawsuits
alleging systemic sexual misconduct by male correctional staff in women’s
prisons in two states (Arizona and Michigan). Both suits were filed in
3
March 1997 under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980,
which is designed to protect the rights of people housed in state and local
governmental institutions, including state prisons. In March 1999, the
Justice Department and Arizona entered into a settlement agreement,
which among other things, requires Arizona to revise employee and inmate
training, strengthen investigative techniques, and requires male officers to
announce their presence—absent reasonable suspicion of inappropriate
behavior—when entering areas in which female inmates may be
undressed. In May 1999, the Justice Department and Michigan entered into
a settlement agreement. According to Justice officials, in addition to
provisions similar to the Arizona requirements, the settlement agreement
requires Michigan to institute a 6-month moratorium on cross-gender patdown searches (not an issue in Arizona).
In 1996, the Association of State Correctional Administrators identified
staff sexual misconduct as one of its major management concerns.
Further, in recent years, additional attention to staff sexual misconduct
has resulted from media focus and reports issued by various

2

Sexual Misconduct in Prisons: Law, Agency Responses, and Prevention, November 1996. The report
was based on the results of a survey conducted by NIC during the summer of 1996. In its survey, NIC
mailed a data collection instrument to federal and state agencies responsible for administering adult
prisons. NIC received responses from 53 departments of corrections—BOP, 47 states, the District of
Columbia, Canada, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. NIC plans to update this
survey in the summer of 1999.
3

P.L. 96-247 (1980).

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4

organizations—such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
6
—and an independent fact-finder for the United Nations.

5

Since 1995, a primary agenda item of NIC has been to assist correctional
departments in addressing the issue of sexual misconduct among staff and
inmates. For example, since October 1995, NIC has trained groups of
correctional leaders—including members of the Association of State
Correctional Administrators, as well as deputy directors and wardens of
correctional facilities—to assist them in developing deliberate
management responses as they shape policy in their agencies.
Also, as of March 1999, NIC had provided on-site technical assistance to 3
BOP facilities, 17 states, and the District of Columbia. According to NIC,
during these on-site visits, NIC representatives provided assistance, such
as
• conducting small focus groups with correctional staff and inmates to
assess training needs and general practices within the institution,
• reviewing operational and management practices that may be contributing
to staff isolation and vulnerability to sexual involvement, and
• providing relevant training to correctional staff.
Further, NIC has developed a 36-hour (initially a 24-hour) seminar on
management strategies to address staff sexual misconduct. According to
NIC, this seminar is to be attended by three-person teams who can shape
and implement departmental policy and procedures. Topics covered
include policy development, training strategies, investigative procedures,
and institutional culture. According to NIC, as of April 1999, officials from
BOP and correctional departments in 37 states have attended the training.

4

Human Rights Watch, Women Rights Project, All Too Familiar: Sexual Abuse of Women in State
Prisons (Human Rights Watch: New York, NY), December 1996. The report reflects work conducted
during March 1994 to November 1996 at a total of 11 nonfederal prisons housing female inmates in 5
states—California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, and New York—and the District of Columbia.
5

Amnesty International, Rights for All (March 1999).

6

Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Report on the Mission to the United States of America on the Issue of
Violence Against Women in State and Federal Prisons, in accordance with Commission Rights
resolution 1997/44, January 4, 1999. The fact-finder’s report is based on visits to federal and state
prisons in six states—California, Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.

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Most Jurisdictions
Have Laws That
Criminalize Certain
Types of Staff Sexual
Misconduct in Prisons

According to NIC, as recently as 1990, perhaps as few as 11 U.S.
correctional jurisdictions—the federal government and about 10 states—
had laws specifically prohibiting certain types of staff-on-inmate sexual
misconduct. As of April 1999, however, according to an update to a 1998
7
National Women’s Law Center report:
• In addition to the federal government, 41 states and the District of
Columbia had laws specifically criminalizing certain types of sexual
8
misconduct in prisons.
• The federal government and 5 of the 41 states define certain types of
sexual misconduct in prisons as either a felony or a misdemeanor,
depending on the nature and severity of the conduct.
• Of the other 36 states with applicable laws, 28 states (and the District of
Columbia) define such conduct as a felony, and 8 states treat such conduct
as a misdemeanor.
According to the National Women’s Law Center’s 1998 report, because the
provisions of criminal statutes are jurisdiction specific, both the definition
of sexual misconduct and the penalty imposed for violations vary from
state to state. Further, the report noted that even if the state has no
criminal law specifically prohibiting sexual misconduct by correctional
staff, a prosecutor may apply the general sexual abuse or assault laws of
the state. The Center’s report also noted that inmates may file civil actions
for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and assault
and/or battery.
NIC, in its 1996 report mentioned above, noted that some states’ laws
criminalizing sexual misconduct apply to correctional staff in particular,
whereas other states’ laws apply to public employees generally.
All four jurisdictions we studied—the federal government, California,
Texas, and the District of Columbia—have laws criminalizing certain types

7

The April 1999 update was compiled by Brenda V. Smith (Associate Professor, Washington College of
Law, American University) and Giovanna Shay (Soros Justice Fellow, American Civil Liberties Union
National Prison Project) and had not been published at the time of our review. Professor Smith
authored the 1998 report while employed as the Director of the Women in Prison Project at the
National Women’s Law Center, An End To Silence: Women Prisoners’ Handbook on Identifying and
Addressing Sexual Misconduct (Washington, D.C.), April 1998.
8

According to Professor Smith and Giovanna Shay, as of April 1999, the nine states without laws
specifically criminalizing certain types of staff sexual misconduct were Alabama, Kentucky,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Vermont. The researchers
noted that, although Nebraska and Vermont did not have laws, they had legislation pending.

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9

of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct. The federal law was passed in 1986,
10
11
while the other three laws—California, Texas, and the District of
12
Columbia —were passed during the mid-1990s.
Two of the four jurisdictions (the federal government and California)
define certain types of staff sexual misconduct as either a felony or a
misdemeanor depending on the frequency, nature, and/or severity of the
conduct. The other two jurisdictions (Texas and the District of Columbia)
define such conduct as a felony. None of the staff sexual misconduct laws
in the four jurisdictions list consent as a defense.

Sexual Misconduct
Policies, Staff Training,
and Inmate Awareness
Are Important

Whatever the scope of applicable laws, NIC suggests that departments of
corrections have policies that clearly define, prohibit, and specify penalties
for the full range of sexual misconduct involving staff and inmates.
The four correctional jurisdictions we studied have or were in the process
of developing staff sexual misconduct policies. More specifically, as of
June 1999, BOP and the District of Columbia Department of Corrections
had approved policies, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had a
draft policy (expected to be finalized and implemented in September
1999), and the California Department of Corrections was in the process of
developing its policy.
NIC also suggests that, in addition to having a clear policy, the elements of
a comprehensive approach to preventing staff sexual misconduct include
the following:
• a staff-training program that presents clear information on applicable laws,
agency policies, and penalties;
• a means for providing inmates with basic information about applicable
laws, agency policies, and penalties, including the penalties for making
false allegations regarding sexual misconduct; and
• specific procedures for handling and investigating allegations of staff
sexual misconduct.
9

The Sexual Abuse Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-646) (codified at 18 U.S.C. sections 2241-2244, and other
scattered sections).

10
California Penal Code section 289.6, “Employee or officer of detention facility; Engaging in sexual
activity with consenting adult confined in detention facility.”
11
Texas Penal Code, section 39.04, “Violations of the Civil Rights of Person in Custody; Improper Sexual
Activity with Person in Custody.”

12

The Anti-Sexual Abuse Act of 1994 (D.C. Law 10-257) (D.C. Code section 22-4101 et seq.).

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Three of the four jurisdictions we studied (BOP, Texas, and the District of
Columbia) provide prison staff and female inmates with formal training or
briefings that were specifically developed to address staff sexual
misconduct. California Department of Corrections officials told us that
although prison staff are not provided with training specifically developed
to address staff sexual misconduct, this topic is covered during staff
orientation and other training. California officials also told us that although
female inmates are not provided training on staff sexual misconduct, they
are given an orientation handbook that outlines the process for reporting
any type of employee misconduct.
Further, all four jurisdictions have procedures for handling and
investigating allegations of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct, including
when such allegations should be handled administratively or referred for
criminal prosecution. Generally, an internal affairs component is
responsible for conducting investigations and making referrals.
Additional information on sexual misconduct laws, policies, and
procedures in the four correctional jurisdictions we studied is presented in
appendix II.

Staff Sexual
Misconduct Occurs,
Although the Full
Extent Is Unknown

Available data provided to us by the four jurisdictions we studied indicate
that staff sexual misconduct in women’s prisons is not a hypothetical
issue, i.e., such misconduct does occur. The data show that during
calendar years 1995 to 1998:
• At least 92 allegations of staff sexual misconduct were sustained in the
three largest U.S. correctional systems. That is, the allegations resulted in
13
staff resignations, employment terminations, or other administrative
sanctions.
• Only BOP reported having any criminal prosecutions with convictions
under staff sexual misconduct laws.
• Each of the four jurisdictions was involved in at least two civil lawsuits
related to staff sexual misconduct.
While the data indicate that staff sexual misconduct occurs, the full extent
of the problem is unknown. Many correctional experts believe that staffon-inmate sexual misconduct is likely underreported nationally due to the
fear of retaliation and vulnerability felt by female inmates. Also, as
13
Sustained allegations include applicable staff resignations that resulted during or after investigations.
According to correctional officials, these were cases wherein the investigations concluded that a
preponderance of the evidence supported the allegations that violations had occurred.

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discussed more fully later in this report, the jurisdictions we studied did
not have readily available, comprehensive data on the number, nature, and
outcome of sexual misconduct allegations. For example, BOP and Texas
provided data only on the more serious types of allegations, such as
improper sexual contact and assault. These jurisdictions either did not
have or could not readily compile data on allegations involving other types
of sexual misconduct, such as verbal harassment and inappropriate visual
surveillance.

At Least 92 Allegations of
Staff Sexual Misconduct
Were Sustained in the Three
Largest U.S. Correctional
Systems During 1995 to
1998
Table 1: Staff-on-Inmate Sexual
Misconduct Allegations Reported and
Sustained at BOP, California, and Texas
Female Prisons, Calendar Years 1995 to
1998

According to data provided to us by BOP, California, and Texas officials,
female inmates in these three jurisdictions collectively made a total of at
least 506 allegations of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct during calendar
years 1995 to 1998. As table 1 shows, 92 (or 18 percent) of the 506
allegations were sustained; that is, the allegations resulted in staff
resignations, employment terminations, or other administrative sanctions.

Staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct
Number of allegations reported
Number of allegations sustained (staff
resignations, employment terminations, or
other administrative sanctions)
Total allegations sustained as a
percentage of allegations reported

Calendar years 1995 to 1998
a
b
BOP
California Texas
Total
236
117
153
506
22c
22
48
92
9%

19%

31%

18%

Note: For each jurisdiction, some allegations reported during calendar years 1995 to 1998 may not
have been fully resolved (e.g., investigated and found unsubstantiated or sustained) during those
same years. Similarly, some of the allegations sustained during these years may have been filed
before 1995.
a
BOP data represent only those allegations potentially involving sexual abuse as defined under
federal law. Data on allegations involving other types of sexual misconduct—such as verbal
harassment and inappropriate visual surveillance—were not readily available. Also, according to BOP
officials, the data may include a small but indeterminable number of allegations that involve female
staff and male inmates, female staff and female inmates, or male staff and male inmates.
b
Texas data represent only those allegations referred to the Office of Internal Affairs. According to
Texas officials, these allegations involved the more serious types of misconduct, such as sexual
contact and assault. Data on allegations involving other types of sexual misconduct—such as verbal
harassment and inappropriate visual surveillance—were not readily available.
c

Also, 14 of the 22 sustained allegations resulted in criminal prosecutions with convictions.

Source: GAO summary of BOP, California Department of Corrections, and Texas Department of
Criminal Justice data.

District of Columbia officials could not readily provide us with data on
allegations for the entire 4-year period, 1995 to 1998. Rather, according to
an official from the District’s Office of the Corporation Counsel, for the
period December 1995 to June 1998, female inmates in the District made
111 allegations of staff sexual misconduct, of which 12 (or 11 percent)

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14

were sustained. The official could not readily provide information on the
nature or outcome of the allegations but noted that sustained allegations
resulted in either staff resignations or disciplinary actions ranging from
suspensions to employment terminations.
Officials in the four jurisdictions we studied cited lack of evidence as the
primary reason why the number of sustained allegations was relatively
small compared to the total number of reported allegations. The officials
explained that medical or other physical evidence frequently was not
available and, thus, investigators were often faced with instances of “she
said versus he said.” The officials told us that another reason why more
allegations were not sustained was that many allegations were false
assertions made by inmates in an attempt to manipulate the system and
victimize staff.

Federal Bureau of Prisons

The 22 allegations BOP sustained during 1995 to 1998 resulted in 18 staff
resignations, 3 employment terminations, and 1 staff reassignment. As
noted in table 1, each of the 22 allegations involved sexual abuse—which,
by definition, is potentially criminal conduct. In fact, 14 of the 22
allegations sustained also resulted in criminal prosecutions with
convictions. The 14 prosecution cases consisted of (1) the 3 employment
15
termination cases and (2) 11 of the 18 staff resignation cases.
Regarding the other seven staff resignation cases, BOP officials told us
that six of the seven employees resigned without any adverse personnel
16
action being recorded in personnel files. Information provided to us by
BOP indicates that two of the seven allegations had elements of forced
sexual contact, whereas the other five cases perhaps involved consensual
sex—which, nonetheless, can be a criminal offense under federal law. A
BOP official noted that BOP does maintain a database of staff who resign
while under investigation and that BOP checks the database for rehiring
purposes.

California Department of
Corrections

The 22 allegations California sustained during 1995 to 1998 resulted in 12
staff resignations, 4 employment terminations, and 6 other types of
administrative sanctions being imposed (i.e., a letter of instruction, a pay
14
According to the Corporation Counsel official, the female-inmate allegations of staff sexual
misconduct may include a small but insignificant number of allegations involving female correctional
staff.
15

The nature and outcome of the 14 prosecution cases are discussed later in this report.

16

One of the seven employees who resigned worked for the U.S. Forest Service. He allegedly abused a
BOP female inmate assigned to a work detail.

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reduction, and 4 unspecified adverse personnel actions). California
officials could readily provide information on the nature of only the five
allegations that were sustained during 1998. Of the five sustained
allegations during that year, three resulted in resignations—two involving
“overfamiliarity,” including the exchange of personal information (address
and telephone number) and one involving alleged sexual intercourse—and
two resulted in terminations (involving improper touching).
California Department of Corrections officials told us that in each of its 12
cases that resulted in resignations, the accused staff member resigned
while under investigation. The officials noted, however, that the
employees’ personnel files were documented with one of the following
annotations: “resigned under adverse circumstances,” “resigned with
fault,” or “resigned with prejudice.” California officials noted that since
late calendar year 1998, all department investigations, including those
during which staff members exercise their right to resign, are to be
continued to resolution and, if warranted, the results recorded in
personnel files.

Texas Department of Criminal
Justice

As table 1 also shows, Texas had the most sustained allegations (48)
during the 4-year period, accounting for about 52 percent of the 92 total.
Among these three jurisdictions, at 31 percent, Texas also had the highest
figure for total allegations sustained as a percentage of allegations
reported.
Texas Office of Internal Affairs officials could readily provide information
on only the 11 allegations sustained during 1998. For that year, the 11
allegations involved consensual sex or other inappropriate sexual
contact—which can be criminal offenses under Texas law—and resulted in
employee resignations or terminations. The officials told us that most of
the 11 sustained allegations resulted in the employee resigning either
during the investigation or when he found out he would be terminated. The
officials told us that regardless of whether the employees resigned or were
terminated, Internal Affairs completed the investigations and documented
the outcome in personnel files. The officials also told us that in each of the
11 cases, a “no rehire letter” was put in the employee’s file.
Texas Internal Affairs officials told us that, although detailed information
was not readily available for allegations filed during 1995 to 1997, most of
these allegations involved consensual sex or other inappropriate sexual
contact. The officials also told us that, similar to the allegations sustained
during 1998, most, if not all of the allegations sustained during 1995 to 1997
resulted in employee resignations or terminations.

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Only BOP Reported
Criminal Prosecutions With
Convictions

As previously mentioned, all four of the jurisdictions we studied have laws
that specifically criminalize certain types of staff-on-inmate sexual
misconduct. Officials in all four jurisdictions told us that criminal
prosecutions can be initiated even if the staff member resigns. However,
only BOP reported having any criminal prosecutions with convictions
under applicable laws during calendar years 1995 to 1998. BOP provided us
with summary information for the 14 cases that resulted in prosecutions
with convictions during this period. The summary information shows that
the allegations involved male staff at seven different BOP facilities and
included having sex with an inmate, having sex in exchange for money,
sexual abuse, and forced sexual assault (i.e., rape). BOP provided the
following sentencing information for the 14 cases:
• Seven convictions resulted in sentences of incarceration ranging from 3 to
232 months.
• Six convictions resulted in sentences of probation ranging from 12 to 60
months, of which, 1 conviction also included home confinement.
• One conviction resulted in a sentence of 3-months home confinement.
In addition to incarceration, probation, and home confinement, 10 of the
14 sentences included fines or restitution ranging from $25 to $5,000. Other
sentencing provisions included community service and supervised release.
Regardless of whether incarceration was or was not a sentencing
provision, as previously mentioned, the 14 convicted staff members either
resigned or BOP terminated their employment.
BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs generates quarterly status reports on
criminal investigations involving staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct and
provides these reports to BOP’s Office of General Counsel.
In California, at the time of our review, no cases involving alleged staff-oninmate sexual misconduct were under investigation by cognizant
prosecution authorities. However, the other two jurisdictions did have
open or ongoing investigations at the time of our review. Specifically, in
Texas, local district attorney’s offices were considering three cases for
possible prosecution; and, in the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney’s
Office was considering six cases.

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Civil Lawsuits Related to
Staff Sexual Misconduct
Were Filed in All Four
Jurisdictions

In addition to resignations, employment terminations, other administrative
sanctions, and criminal prosecutions, staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct at
female prisons may result in civil lawsuits. According to summary
information provided to us by BOP, during 1995 to 1998, BOP was involved
in 14 civil lawsuits. Of these 14 cases, 4 had been closed or dismissed, 3
had been settled, and 7 were still pending at the time of our review. In one
of the cases settled, BOP agreed to pay three women $500,000 to end a
lawsuit in which the women claimed they had been beaten, raped, and sold
by guards for sex with male inmates.
According to California Department of Corrections officials, the
department was involved in two civil lawsuits related to staff sexual
misconduct during 1995 to 1998. In one case, settled in 1996, the
department agreed to pay the plaintiff and her attorneys $73,000 to end a
lawsuit that alleged forced sexual intercourse, among other things. The
other lawsuit—alleging sexual harassment, assault, improper touching,
and lewd sexual remarks—was still pending at the time of our review.
However, according to department officials, the employee was terminated
in 1997 for behavior not specifically related to the lawsuit.
Since 1995, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been involved in
four civil lawsuits related to sexual assault claims by female inmates
against male correctional staff, according to information provided us by
the Law Enforcement Defense Division, Texas Office of the Attorney
General. One of the lawsuits, filed by a female inmate in 1996, was closed
in 1997 based on the federal district court’s granting of a motion to
dismiss. The other three lawsuits, each filed in 1998, were still open at the
time of our review. One of these 3 open lawsuits was filed on behalf of 12
plaintiff female inmates, who alleged that they had been sexually
assaulted. The other two open lawsuits each involved one plaintiff, i.e., a
different female inmate in each case.
The District of Columbia Department of Corrections has had long-standing
problems involving allegations of sexual misconduct by correctional staff.
For example, in October 1993, female inmates filed suit in federal district
court, alleging various violations of constitutional rights, including an
allegation that the Department of Corrections failed to protect them
17
against sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape by guards. A result of
this lawsuit was that, in December 1994, the Department of Corrections
17

Women Prisoners of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections v. District of Columbia, 877
F. Supp. 634 (D.D.C. 1994), vacated in part, modified in part, 899 F. Supp. 659 (D.D.C. 1995), vacated in
part, remanded by 93 F. 3d 910 (D.C. Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 117 S. Ct. 1552 (1997), on remand, 968 F.
Supp. 744 (D.D.C. 1997).

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was required by court order to develop a policy, provide staff and inmates
with training, and take other appropriate steps to prevent and remedy staff
sexual misconduct. The department implemented its initial sexual
misconduct policy in March 1995.
In September 1995, female inmates performed a striptease for a group of
predominantly male correctional staff, according to an official from the
District’s Office of the Corporation Counsel. The official noted that based
on this incident (1) four correctional officers were fired and six were
suspended without pay and (2) four civil lawsuits were filed, all of which
were pending at the time of our review. The official told us that no other
civil lawsuits were filed or ongoing from 1995 to 1998.

Justice
and
BetterDepartment
Monitoring
and
Arizona
Reached
a
Analysis Could Help
Settlement
Agreement
in
Address Staff
Sexual
March
1999
Misconduct

According to the cognizant NIC official, a nationally recognized expert on
sexual misconduct in correctional facilities, both the reporting of staff-oninmate sexual misconduct allegations and the breadth of investigations
have improved in many jurisdictions during the 1990s. The official noted,
however, that most U.S. correctional systems still do not adequately
capture or track data related to such allegations. The absence of adequate
information systems makes it difficult to monitor the incidence of sexual
misconduct, to keep track of allegedly abusive employees or those who
have been found to have violated prison rules and/or criminal law, and to
identify corrective actions needed to help prevent such misconduct.
As previously mentioned, the four jurisdictions we studied generally had
no readily available, comprehensive data or reports on the number, nature,
and outcomes of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct allegations. Rather, in
response to our inquiries for such information, corrections officials
conducted file reviews or undertook other manual efforts rather than rely
on management information systems or other centralized sources.
BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs is responsible for tracking both
noncriminal and potentially criminal allegations of staff-on-inmate sexual
18
misconduct in federal prisons. However, information on all allegations
was not readily available from BOP’s tracking system. For example,
Internal Affairs officials could not readily differentiate allegations of
noncriminal sexual misconduct—involving, for example, indecent
language—from other types of allegations classified as “unprofessional
conduct.” Consequently, BOP did not provide us with any information on
noncriminal allegations. According to BOP officials, while such
18

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General is to review all cases and investigate those
involving suspected criminal activity.

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B-282772

information is not readily available from BOP’s tracking system,
noncriminal allegations are routinely reported and investigated.
Also, BOP’s legal database could not readily differentiate lawsuits
involving staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct from other lawsuits.
Consequently, in response to our request, BOP obtained this information
from each of its six regional offices. BOP officials told us that before our
inquiries, BOP had awarded contracts for databases that, when
implemented, will allow Internal Affairs and legal officials to perform data
searches by name, subject matter, and other items.
California Department of Corrections officials told us that the
department’s current system does not provide a format for distinguishing
staff sexual misconduct from other types of staff misconduct.
Consequently, in response to our request, the department contacted each
of California’s five prisons housing female inmates to obtain information
on the number and outcome of staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct
allegations. Also, department officials told us that providing specific
information or examples on the nature of allegations (e.g., verbal
harassment, improper touching, and/or rape) was impractical, since it
would require a thorough reading of all allegations or complaints filed as
19
staff misconduct to identify those involving staff sexual misconduct. In
response to our request, department officials reviewed files and provided
information on the nature of the five allegations sustained during 1998.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice provided information on only
those staff sexual misconduct allegations that were referred to the
department’s Internal Affairs Division by prison wardens. According to
Internal Affairs officials, these allegations generally involved the more
serious types of misconduct, such as sexual contact and assault. The
officials noted that allegations involving other types of sexual
misconduct—such as verbal harassment and inappropriate visual
surveillance—are usually handled administratively by prison wardens and,
consequently, information on these allegations is not readily available.
Further, Texas Internal Affairs Division officials told us that information
on the allegations referred by wardens to Internal Affairs was not readily
available or extractable from the department’s systems or databases.
Consequently, to obtain information on the number of staff sexual
misconduct allegations filed and sustained during calendar years 1995 to
1998, the department conducted a case-by-case search of all allegations
19

In California’s correctional system, inmate allegations or complaints are referred to as “appeals.”

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B-282772

filed under improper employee-inmate relationships. In response to our
request, department officials reviewed files and provided information on
the nature and outcome of cases sustained during calendar year 1998.
However, the department could not readily determine the nature and
results or outcomes of the allegations sustained during calendar years 1995
to 1997, because, according to department officials, providing such
information would require a time-consuming review of case files.
As previously mentioned, District of Columbia officials could not readily
provide us with data on the number, nature, or outcome of staff sexual
misconduct allegations during the 4-year period, 1995 to 1998. Rather,
District officials provided us with information on the number of allegations
filed and sustained for the period December 1995 to June 1998. Also, the
Department of Corrections has been required by court order since
December 1994 to (1) notify the Metropolitan Police Department about any
allegation involving unwelcome sexual intercourse or unwelcome sexual
touching, (2) communicate with the police department concerning the
status of any investigations of these allegations, and (3) periodically
20
document the status of police investigations. However, in response to our
initial inquiries, the Department of Corrections did not have any current or
readily available information on the status of police investigations. In
response to our follow-up inquiries, the Department of Corrections
obtained investigation status information from the Metropolitan Police
Department.
Further, all four jurisdictions we studied did not routinely analyze data on
staff sexual misconduct allegations or generate management reports to
identify potential trends or problem areas. Correctional officials in these
jurisdictions told us that the current systems used to capture sexual
misconduct data do not facilitate subsequent analyses and reports.
Recognizing the need for better data and management systems to address
staff sexual misconduct issues, NIC began offering training in this area in
1996. NIC suggests that important data to capture, monitor, and analyze
include the facility in which the alleged incident occurred; the date, time,
and place of the alleged incident; the name of the complainant and
respondent(s); and the nature of the incident.

Conclusions

Because many female inmates may be reluctant or unwilling to report staff
sexual misconduct and jurisdictions lack systematic data collection and
20

The District of Columbia Department of Correction’s October 1997 policy on sexual misconduct
against inmates requires that the status of police investigations be documented every 30 days.

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analysis of reported allegations, the overall extent of staff-on-inmate
sexual misconduct in female prisons is largely unknown. However, prior
research and our work indicate that such behavior can and does occur.
Moreover, there is widespread consensus that sexual misconduct by
correctional staff should not be tolerated. While applicable laws, policies,
and procedures would not eliminate staff sexual misconduct, these tools
could help minimize the incidence of such behavior. For the most part, the
jurisdictions we studied do have these tools.
None of the four jurisdictions we studied had readily available,
comprehensive data or reports on the number, nature, and outcomes of
staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct allegations. The systemic absence of
such data or reports makes it difficult for lawmakers, correctional system
managers, relevant federal and state officials, inmate advocacy groups,
academicians, and others to effectively address staff sexual misconduct
issues. For example, without such data or reports, correctional system
managers cannot effectively monitor the incidence of staff sexual
misconduct, keep track of allegedly abusive employees, and identify
corrective actions needed to help minimize such misconduct. Also, absent
better management information systems and more comprehensive data, it
remains unclear the extent to which laws are routinely enforced and
policies and procedures are followed. Accordingly, this is an area wherein
NIC began providing training in 1996.

Recommendation to
the Director, BOP

We recommend that the Director of BOP develop systems and procedures
to
• monitor and analyze allegations of staff sexual misconduct in federal
prisons and
• periodically report results to the Justice Department’s Office of the
Inspector General and to appropriate BOP officials (e.g., senior managers
and wardens).
These analyses and reports should be in sufficient detail to identify and
monitor trends and determine whether any corrective actions are needed.
For instance, the analyses and reports should quantify all categories of
alleged staff sexual misconduct, including allegations of unprofessional or
noncriminal conduct, as well as allegations involving potentially criminal
conduct.

Agency Comments and
Our Evaluation

On May 26, 1999, we provided a draft of this report for review and
comment to the Department of Justice, BOP, the California Department of

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B-282772

Corrections, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the District of
Columbia Department of Corrections.
On June 3, 1999, Justice’s Audit Liaison Office (Justice Management
Division) orally advised us that (1) the draft had been reviewed by
Justice’s Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Office of the Inspector
General, and the Civil Rights Division and (2) these reviewers generally
had no specific comments on the information presented in the draft.
However, Justice’s Civil Rights Division provided updated information
regarding a civil lawsuit. That is, the division informed us that, in May
1999, the Justice Department and Michigan entered into an agreement to
settle a civil lawsuit related to sexual misconduct by male correctional
staff in the state’s prisons for women. This information has been
incorporated in this report where appropriate.
In its written comments dated June 3, 1999, BOP concurred with our
recommendation that BOP develop systems and procedures for
monitoring, analyzing, and reporting allegations of staff-on-inmate sexual
misconduct. The Director of BOP noted that, as stated in our draft, BOP
has begun the process for acquiring a new, more sophisticated database.
According to the Director, this database is expected to be operational by
the end of calendar year 1999, and when fully implemented, will (1) allow
better sorting and analysis of allegations of staff sexual misconduct and (2)
enable BOP to improve its monitoring and identification of potential
trends. During the period June 2-4, 1999, we also received oral comments
from BOP indicating that the draft was reviewed by BOP’s Office of
Internal Affairs, Office of General Counsel, Correctional Programs
Division, and NIC. These components provided technical comments and
suggestions, which have been incorporated in this report where
appropriate.
During the period June 2-7, 1999, the California Department of Corrections,
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the District of Columbia
Department of Corrections provided either oral or written technical
comments and clarifications, which have been incorporated in this report
where appropriate.
As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days after the
date of this report. At that time, we will send copies to Representative
Henry Hyde, Chairman, and Representative John Conyers, Ranking
Minority Member, House Judiciary Committee; and to Senator Orrin Hatch,
Chairman, and Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Minority Member, Senate

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B-282772

Judiciary Committee. We will also send copies of this report to: The
Honorable Janet Reno, Attorney General; The Honorable Kathleen Hawk
Sawyer, Director, BOP; Mr. C.A. “Cal” Terhune, Director, California
Department of Corrections; Mr. Wayne Scott, Executive Director, Texas
Department of Criminal Justice; Mr. Odie Washington, Acting Director,
District of Columbia Department of Corrections; and other interested
parties. Copies will also be made available to others upon request.
The major contributors to this report were Danny Burton, Assistant
Director; Eric Erdman, Evaluator-in-Charge; Kay Muse, Senior Evaluator;
and Geoffrey Hamilton, Senior Attorney. Please contact me on (202) 5128777 if you or your staff have any questions about this report.

Sincerely yours,

Norman J. Rabkin
Director
Administration of Justice Issues

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Contents

1

Letter
Appendix I
Scope and
Methodology
Appendix II
Laws, Policies, and
Procedures Related to
Staff-on-Inmate Sexual
Misconduct in Four
U.S. Correctional
Jurisdictions
Tables

Overview Perspectives
Four Correctional Systems Studied
Limitations and Clarifications

22
22
22
23

Federal Bureau of Prisons
California Department of Corrections
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
District of Columbia Department of Corrections

25
25
27
29
30

Table 1: Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Reported and Sustained at BOP, California, and Texas
Female Prisons, Calendar Years 1995 to 1998

8

Abbreviations
BOP
NIC

Page 20

Bureau of Prisons
National Institute of Corrections

GAO/GGD-99-104 Staff Sexual Misconduct in Female Prisons

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Appendix I

Scope and Methodology

Overview Perspectives

To obtain overview perspectives regarding staff-on-inmate sexual
misconduct, we conducted a literature search and also contacted the
National Institute of Corrections (NIC), a component of the federal Bureau
of Prisons (BOP) that provides assistance to federal, state, and local
corrections agencies working with adult offenders. In recent years, NIC
has focused on staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct issues and has provided
extensive training to federal and state correctional system personnel.
Also, we contacted the National Women’s Law Center (Washington, D.C.),
a nonprofit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and
protect women’s legal rights. In 1990, the center initiated a project to
address problems confronting women prisoners. As part of this project, in
1998, the center produced an educational manual designed for
incarcerated women and others concerned about sexual misconduct in
1
correctional institutions.
To obtain additional perspectives regarding staff sexual misconduct at
female prisons, we contacted the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights
Division, which is responsible for investigations and litigation under the
2
Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980. According to the
Justice Department, investigations are initiated when there is reason to
believe that serious, systemic, unconstitutional conditions exist at a facility
3
covered by the statute. Investigations and related actions can involve
general conditions of confinement, such as inadequate fire safety, poor
sanitation, improper use of restraints, inadequate medical and mental
healthcare, and staff sexual misconduct.

Four Correctional
Systems Studied

As agreed with the requester, to obtain specific information about (1)
applicable laws, policies, and procedures and (2) the number, nature, and
outcomes of allegations made in recent years, we focused on four
correctional systems—BOP, the California Department of Corrections, the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the District of Columbia
Department of Corrections. The first three are the nation’s largest
correctional systems for female offenders. At calendar year-end 1998,
approximately
• 9,200 female inmates were in federal prisons,
1

National Women’s Law Center, An End to Silence: Women’s Prisoners Handbook on Identifying and
Addressing Sexual Misconduct, April 1998.
2

P.L. 96-247 (1980).

3

This act is designed to protect the rights of people housed in state and local governmental
institutions, including state prisons.

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Appendix I
Scope and Methodology

• 11,500 female prisoners were under the jurisdiction of the California
Department of Corrections, and
• 10,700 female prisoners were under the jurisdiction of the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice.
In 1998, these three correctional systems held over one-third of the
nation’s approximately 80,000 female prisoners. At calendar year-end 1998,
about 320 female offenders were under the jurisdiction of the District of
Columbia Department of Corrections.
Our contacts included officials in (1) BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs,
Office of General Counsel, and Correctional Programs Division; (2) the
California Department of Corrections’ Institutions Division and Internal
Affairs Division; (3) the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Internal
Affairs Division; and (4) the District of Columbia Department of
Corrections’ Office of the Deputy Director for Institutions and the
District’s Office of the Corporation Counsel (Special Litigation Division).
We reviewed applicable statutes; policy documents and operations
manuals; inmate orientation handbooks; and available statistics (for
calendar years 1995 to 1998) regarding the number of allegations filed and
the number sustained (i.e., allegations that resulted in staff resignations,
employment terminations, or other administrative sanctions). Further, we
inquired about the number and outcomes or status of criminal
prosecutions with convictions and civil lawsuits alleging staff-on-inmate
sexual misconduct.

Limitations and
Clarifications

The scope of our work did not include (1) interviewing inmates, (2) testing
or confirming whether applicable policies for reporting and investigating
sexual misconduct were being followed in actual practice, or (3) reviewing
the merits of allegations or the appropriateness of outcomes or
disciplinary actions.
Further, except for some civil lawsuits that are public records,
correctional officials did not provide us information identifying either the
individuals who filed allegations of sexual misconduct or the correctional
staff who allegedly engaged in the prohibited behaviors. Thus, we did not
specifically determine whether a relatively few inmates were responsible
for making multiple or repeated allegations against relatively few or the
same correctional staff.
Also, we did not independently verify information provided to us by
corrections officials regarding the number, nature, and outcomes of sexual
misconduct allegations made by female inmates during calendar years

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Appendix I
Scope and Methodology

1995 to 1998. However, we did obtain annual statistics that do add to the 4year totals presented in table 1. Also, the information we reported
regarding the nature and outcomes of allegations is based on written
responses provided to us by corrections officials. These responses,
according to senior corrections officials, were compiled by applicable
program staff and were reviewed by applicable managers before being
provided to us.
Finally, as previously mentioned, “sustained” allegations include applicable
staff resignations that resulted during or after investigations. According to
correctional officials, these were cases wherein the investigations
concluded that a preponderance of the evidence supported the allegations
that violations had occurred.

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Appendix II

Laws, Policies, and Procedures Related to
Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct in Four
U.S. Correctional Jurisdictions
This appendix presents information about staff-on-inmate sexual
1
misconduct laws, policies, and procedures regarding women’s prisons in
four correctional jurisdictions—the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the
California Department of Corrections, the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice, and the District of Columbia Department of Corrections.

Federal Bureau of
Prisons

At the federal level, criminal offenses enacted by the Sexual Abuse Act of
2
1986 are the primary laws covering staff-on-inmate sexual abuse. Under
the act, a staff person who engages in a sexual act with an inmate is
criminally liable. Consent is not listed in the statute as a defense to
3
criminal prosecution. According to an April 1999 survey, the federal
government is one of the few jurisdictions that does not define all cases of
staff sexual assault in prisons as a felony. Rather, misconduct is defined as
either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the nature and severity of
the assault.
According to BOP officials, since 1973, BOP’s “standards of employee
conduct” has covered inappropriate staff relationships with inmates. The
officials noted that in 1996, BOP modified its standards to prohibit an
employee from engaging in, or allowing another person to engage in,
sexual behavior with an inmate.
In 1995, BOP approved a sexual misconduct policy that primarily
addressed inmate-on-inmate sexual misconduct. In December 1997, BOP
updated its policy to include instances of staff-on-inmate sexual
misconduct and to present more detailed mental health treatment
protocols for victims. The 1997 policy update defines staff-on-inmate
sexual misconduct as “engaging in, or attempting to engage in a sexual act
with any inmate or the intentional touching . . . with the intent to abuse,
humiliate, harass, degrade, arouse, or gratify the sexual desire of any
person.” As with applicable federal law in which consent is not listed as a

1

Staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct can cover a wide range of inappropriate verbal, visual, and
physical behaviors, such as using lewd language or making sexual remarks, observing an inmate’s
personal activities (e.g., showering) without a sound penological reason, and engaging in sexual
contact or acts with or without an inmate’s consent (e.g., touching, kissing, abuse or assault,
intercourse, rape, etc.). Depending on its nature and applicable law, staff sexual misconduct may
involve either noncriminal or criminal acts.

2

The Sexual Abuse Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-646) (codified at 18 U.S.C. sections 2241-2244 and other
scattered sections). The laws address aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a minor
or ward, and abusive sexual contact.

3

The April 1999 survey was conducted by Brenda V. Smith (Associate Professor, Washington College of
Law, American University) and Giovanna Shay (Soros Justice Fellow, American Civil Liberties Union
National Prison Project) and had not been published at the time of our review.

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Appendix II
Laws, Policies, and Procedures Related to Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct in Four U.S.
Correctional Jurisdictions

defense, the 1997 policy update also provides that any sexual act between
staff and inmates is prohibited, even when no objections are raised.
BOP’s current policy does not cover the full range of staff sexual
misconduct, but an update of the policy is planned for late 1999. That is,
currently, while sexual acts and improper touching are covered, the policy
does not mention other types of misconduct, including, for example,
indecent sexual language or gestures and inappropriate visual surveillance.
According to BOP officials, although such behaviors are not covered by
BOP’s sexual misconduct policy, these behaviors are included under a
more encompassing category in BOP’s standards of employee conduct.
While the standards do not specifically define or prohibit staff sexual
misconduct, BOP training documents indicate that these other types of
misconduct are defined and discussed during staff training. Also,
according to BOP officials, before our inquiries, BOP had planned to
update its sexual misconduct policy in late 1999 to cover noncriminal
sexual behavior, such as indecent, profane, or abusive language or
gestures and inappropriate visual surveillance of inmates.
Key elements of BOP’s 1997 sexual misconduct policy include (1)
educating and training staff and inmates; (2) safeguarding, assessing,
treating, and managing sexually assaulted inmates; and (3) investigating,
disciplining, and/or prosecuting perpetrators of sexual assault.
BOP’s policy requires that all staff be trained to recognize signs of sexual
assault, understand the identification and referral process, and have a
basic understanding of sexual assault prevention and response techniques.
In 1998, BOP began training its staff regarding staff-on-inmate sexual
misconduct, and it plans to continue such training in future years during
required annual refresher courses. Specialized training is also required for
staff who are likely to be most involved in the treatment or management of
sexually assaulted inmates, such as health and psychology services staff.
Further, the Director of BOP has addressed BOP’s zero tolerance towards
staff sexual misconduct during training and briefings to senior BOP
officials. According to BOP officials, before 1998, the topic of staff sexual
misconduct was covered during other staff training.
BOP’s policy also requires that inmate education include information
about (1) how inmates can protect themselves from becoming victims
while incarcerated, (2) treatment options available to victims of sexual
assault, and (3) methods of reporting incidents of sexual assault.
According to BOP, each inmate is also provided a handbook that details
BOP’s policy and explains the process for filing sexual misconduct

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Appendix II
Laws, Policies, and Procedures Related to Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct in Four U.S.
Correctional Jurisdictions

complaints. The handbook describes the various methods inmates can use
to report allegations of staff sexual misconduct—i.e., directly to a facility
staff member, the warden, a chaplain, the applicable BOP regional office,
and/or the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. According
to BOP policy, after reporting an allegation, the complainant should be
referred for a medical examination and offered immediate protection.
BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs is responsible for tracking all sexual
4
misconduct allegations. The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector
General is to review all cases and investigate those involving suspected
criminal activity. If warranted, the Inspector General’s Office can refer
cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Cases not involving
criminal activity are to be returned to BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs for
an administrative investigation, which can result in various types of
disciplinary action.

California Department
of Corrections

California state law related to staff sexual misconduct specifically defines
5
prohibited sexual activity. Under this law, correctional staff who engage in
sexual activity with an inmate are criminally liable. Consent is not a
defense to criminal prosecution for this offense. The first violation of this
offense is considered a misdemeanor and any subsequent violation of this
offense is a felony.
California Department of Corrections policy documents do not specifically
or separately cover staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct. Rather, California
Department of Corrections officials told us that such behaviors are
included under a more-encompassing category of “employee misconduct,”
as presented in Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations and the
department’s Operations Manual. According to the manual, allegations of
“serious” employee misconduct—which include having intimate
relationships with an inmate—are to be investigated by the department’s
Office of Internal Affairs. If sustained by Internal Affairs, these serious
allegations are to be referred to (1) the applicable warden, who can impose
administrative sanctions (adverse personnel actions) ranging from an
official reprimand to employment termination and/or (2) the local district
attorney’s office for criminal prosecution. Allegations of less serious or
performance-related conduct—such as becoming overly familiar with an
inmate (e.g., sharing a lunch with an inmate)—are subject to a fact-finding

4

BOP, Program Statement 1210.17, “Office of Internal Affairs,” August 4, 1997.

5

California Penal Code, section 289.6, “Employee or officer of detention facility; Engaging in sexual
activity with consenting adult confined in detention facility.”

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Appendix II
Laws, Policies, and Procedures Related to Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct in Four U.S.
Correctional Jurisdictions

inquiry conducted by a staff person assigned by the warden or other
appropriate authority.
According to California Department of Corrections officials, although
prison staff are not provided with training specifically developed to
address staff sexual misconduct, this topic is covered during staff
orientation and other training. The officials told us that female inmates are
not provided formal training to assist them in recognizing, handling, and
reporting staff sexual misconduct. The officials noted, however, that
female inmates are given an orientation handbook that outlines the
process for reporting any type of employee misconduct. In January 1999,
the department appointed an ombudsman—reporting directly to the Chief
Deputy Director, Field Operations—to oversee conditions in female
prisons and to serve as a focal point for the most sensitive complaints and
issues.
In March 1999, senior officials from the California Department of
Corrections attended NIC training on staff-on-inmate sexual misconduct.
Based on information presented at this training, according to California
officials, the department has adopted a three-pronged approach to the
issue of staff sexual misconduct as follows:
• First, a bill drafted by the department has been submitted to the California
legislature to increase the penalties for staff sexual misconduct and
expand the scope of proscribed activities under the law.
• Second, in April 1999, the Director, California Department of Corrections,
distributed a memorandum to all staff emphasizing the department’s “zero
tolerance” towards employees engaging in sexual misconduct with inmates
and parolees. Also, as of May 1999, the department was in the process of
drafting regulations specifying its zero-tolerance towards staff sexual
misconduct.
• Third, the department’s Office of Internal Affairs, rather than institutional
investigators, now investigates allegations of staff sexual misconduct. The
department anticipates that a significant number of Internal Affairs staff
will acquire specialized training related to sexual misconduct
investigations.

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Appendix II
Laws, Policies, and Procedures Related to Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct in Four U.S.
Correctional Jurisdictions

Texas Department of
Criminal Justice

Texas state law was changed in September 1997 to provide that
correctional staff who engage in sexual intercourse or in deviate sexual
6
intercourse with an individual in custody are criminally liable. According
to Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials, effective September 1,
1999, new laws will also prohibit certain types of sexual contact and will
cover both incarcerated and supervised (e.g., parolees) individuals. The
officials told us that before 1997, other state laws generally applicable to
sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault could be used to prosecute
cases of staff-on-inmate sexual assault.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s employees’ general rules of
conduct cover prohibited employee-offender relationships. At the time of
our review, Texas had a draft policy on staff sexual misconduct with
offenders (expected to be finalized and implemented in September 1999).
The draft policy also addresses prohibited employee-offender relationships
and specifically defines staff sexual misconduct, including written or
electronic communication of a sexual nature; obscene or sexual advances,
gestures, or comments; sexual intercourse; and other sexual conduct (e.g.,
inappropriate touching).
The draft policy also specifies penalties or disciplinary actions related to
sexual misconduct, describes staff responsibilities for reporting prohibited
sexual activities, and requires staff training regarding sexual misconduct
with inmates. Also, according to department officials, female inmates are
provided sexual misconduct training during intake orientation and are
given a handbook that describes the process for reporting any type of
employee misconduct.
The department’s Internal Affairs Division is responsible for investigating
the more serious types of staff sexual misconduct allegations, such as
sexual contact and assault. Internal Affairs is to refer suspected violations
of criminal law to local district attorney’s offices for prosecution. All other
alleged violations of departmental policy are to be investigated by the
facility or department administration, with possible disciplinary action
taken against the employee.

6

Texas Penal Code, section 39.04, “Violations of the Civil Rights of Person in Custody; Improper Sexual
Activity with Person in Custody.”

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Appendix II
Laws, Policies, and Procedures Related to Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct in Four U.S.
Correctional Jurisdictions

District of Columbia
Department of
Corrections

According to various correctional experts, the District of Columbia has
one of the strictest and most comprehensive sets of sexual abuse laws and
policies in the country. The District’s Anti-Sexual Abuse Act of 1994, in
general, makes staff-on-inmate sexual acts and sexual contact felony
7
offenses.
The District of Columbia Department of Corrections has been required by
court order since December 1994 to take appropriate steps to prevent and
remedy staff sexual misconduct. The court order provisions are primarily
addressed in the department’s sexual misconduct policy, as revised in
1997.
In general, the department’s policy defines prohibited staff sexual
misconduct to include sexual abuse (any sexual act or sexual contact),
sexual harassment (verbal or physical sexual conduct creating a hostile
environment), and invasion of privacy (observing an inmate’s personal
activities without a sound penological reason or failing to announce
presence when entering the housing unit of an inmate of the opposite sex
without a sound penological reason). The department’s policy, as does the
staff-on-inmate provision of the Anti-Sexual Abuse Act of 1994, provides
that consent is not a defense to the crime of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse.
The policy also specifies administrative penalties for sexual misconduct
involving staff and inmates. Further, the department’s policy prohibits
• overt or covert retaliation by any staff against either female inmates or
correctional staff for filing a sexual misconduct complaint or cooperating
in investigations of sexual misconduct;
• interference with sexual misconduct investigations or refusal to testify
during an investigation;
• failure of staff to report any sexual misconduct, either witnessed or
suspected; and
• breach of confidentiality by an employee.
Also, among others, the policy’s provisions include the following:

8

• All correctional staff are required to receive training on prohibited sexual
misconduct, and all inmates are to be briefed (during intake orientation)
and provided written information on prohibited practices and reporting
procedures.
7

Anti-Sexual Abuse Act of 1994 (D.C. Law 10-257) (D.C. Code section 22-4101 et seq.).

8

District of Columbia Department of Corrections Order 3350.2B, “Sexual Misconduct Against Inmates”
(revised October 15, 1997).

Page 30

GAO/GGD-99-104 Staff Sexual Misconduct in Female Prisons

Appendix II
Laws, Policies, and Procedures Related to Staff-on-Inmate Sexual Misconduct in Four U.S.
Correctional Jurisdictions

• A confidential 24-hour telephone hotline was installed for inmates to use in
reporting sexual misconduct. Also, inmates may report such misconduct
directly to the warden or any staff member.
• A sexual misconduct coordinator position was established to monitor
complaints filed and ensure that allegations are investigated. The
coordinator is to refer potentially criminal allegations to local law
enforcement authorities, who, when applicable, are to refer cases to the
U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Page 31

GAO/GGD-99-104 Staff Sexual Misconduct in Female Prisons

Page 32

GAO/GGD-99-104 Staff Sexual Misconduct in Female Prisons

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