Michael Rochon, Guard Behavior is Old Concern, Indystar.com, August 4, 2002.
The recent arrests of three Indiana prison guards accused of forcing
female inmates to have sex with them was a rare incident, prison officials
But according to records obtained by The Star, officials took disciplinary
action 92 times against Indiana prison guards in 2000 and 2001 for
inappropriate contact with inmates. That's a broad category of improper
behavior that can range from granting favors to having sex.
At least five of those cases involved juvenile offenders.
"This is a problem from way back. And it's also a problem that (prison
officials) know is happening on a regular basis," said local inmate
advocate Celia Sweet.
State prison officials said they take such cases seriously.
"It is stressed to all correctional officers during training that having a
sexual relationship with an inmate -- whether male or female -- is a
felony," said department spokeswoman Pam Pattison. "And the Department of
Correction will prosecute in such cases."
But Pattison said the department keeps no record of how many discipline
cases result in prosecution. Criminal charges would be filed in the county
where the crime is believed to have occurred, and her agency does not
compile overall figures.
The head of the department, Commissioner Evelyn Ridley-Turner, failed to
return repeated calls for comment on the issue. Her agency oversees 35
Disciplinary action for improper relations was taken most frequently at
Rockville Correctional Facility, a western Indiana prison that houses
about 700 female inmates. Twenty-four actions in 2000 and 2001 involved
improper relations, according to the Department of Correction.
The Westville Correctional Facility, home to 2,700 male offenders, was
second with 22 cases. Eight were for improper relationships, and one was
for sexual contact, state documents show.
Concerns about coercion were raised after allegations surfaced in late May
that guards at the Indiana Women's Prison in Indianapolis intimidated
prisoners into having sex with them.
Three male correctional officers, all charged July 23 with felony sexual
misconduct, forced female inmates to a basement-level chapel, where at
least two women were forced into sexual contacts against their will, the
Marion County prosecutor's office contends.
One of the officers used a latex glove as a condom on an inmate, according
to court documents, and also demanded she perform oral sex.
A Star request to interview one of the women involved was denied by
department officials, saying the inmate's comments could potentially
jeopardize the pending case against the officers.
Although state prison officials note that not all of the accusations of
improper contact have alleged sexual coercion, they do say such relations
between inmates and the state's 4,500 guards are a genuine concern.
Walter Martin, superintendent at the 32-year-old Rockville women's prison,
said four of the cases there involved guards engaging in "potentially
romantic relationships" with inmates. In one case, a female guard allowed
an offender to move in with her after being released from prison. That
incident led to the officer's resignation.
The majority of the cases, Martin said, were attributed to preconceived
notions about prison life.
"A lot of (guards) think prison is like those old movies," said Martin,
referring to the once-popular notion that guards are allowed to demand sex
from inmates in return for favors.
"But these are just people who have gotten into some trouble," he said.
"These are your mother's friends. These are the normal people that you see
walking down the street."
Although no group tracks the number of such allegations nationally,
inmates advocates say, the practice of prison officials coercing inmates
into having sex has existed for decades.
"This is a real problem -- not only in Indiana -- but across the nation,"
said Lara Stemple, executive director of the nonprofit Stop Prison Rapes
organization in California. "We do hear these stories, and unfortunately,
we hear them far too many times."
Officials from Human Rights Watch said the problem lies in prison
management not regularly investigating such allegations. They think more
inmates would come forward if their complaints weren't automatically
categorized as baseless.
"All too often, prison departments feel the inmate has trapped this 'poor,
innocent guard,' " said group Executive Director Jamie Fellner, whose
independent, non-governmental organization fights against global
Fellner said allowing guards into the showers and sleeping quarters of
opposite-sex prisoners -- practices permitted in many states, including
Indiana -- also contributes to problems.
"We're not encouraging discrimination against men," she said, "but we do
believe there are some situations where the two sexes should at least be
But when it comes to prisoners, Pattison said, separating inmates from
security personnel will never be an option -- regardless of gender.
"When talking about a prison setting," she said, "you will not be allowed