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Inappropriate relationships with inmates

PREA criminalizes any sexual relationship between correctional officers and inmates because of the “imbalance of power”

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s tip is for folks who work in our nation’s jails and prisons, this tip deals with staff members engaging in sexual relationships or sexual activities with inmates.

Let me give you the end of the tip right up front so I can say it again later on: Don’t do it. This is a very serious topic. When correctional officers, non-sworn staff members, contractors, or even volunteers engage in a sexual relationship with an inmate, they put the facility and the security of the facility at risk, not to mention their careers, reputations, future employment, and criminal prosecution. They would also be breaking the law. Here that loud and clear!

In September 2003, Congress passed PREA, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, promoting a zero-tolerance policy for inmate sexual abuse or harassment. PREA applies to all correctional facilities, including prisons, jails, juvenile detention facilities, lock-ups, and community confinement facilities.

PREA criminalizes any sexual relationship between correctional officers and inmates because of the “imbalance of power.” Put simply, and hear this loud and clear, inmates cannot legally give consent.

“But Gordon, what if a sexual act is considered consensual by both the staff member and the inmate?” It doesn’t matter. It is still against the law.

Sexual abuse corrupts the correctional facility. It can lead to staff involvement in smuggling drugs or weapons into the facility for inmates or even aiding escape attempts. And these things have happened.

Corrections officers who cross that line WILL get caught. It’s not a question of if, but when. And a sexual relationship with an inmate will compromise you, your coworkers, and your facility.

Plus, it’s a violation of the law and your professional ethics – Don’t do it! Again, don’t do it.

That’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

For more tips from Gordon, click here.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.