Alan Johnson, Inmate-Staff Relationships: Efforts Under Way to End
Illegal Sex, Prisons Chief Says, Columbus Dispatch, March 18, 2004.
Ohio prisons have taken serious steps to curtail illegal sex between
inmates and staff members at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, prisons chief
Reginald A. Wilkinson told a legislative committee yesterday.
Many of the allegations of sexual abuse of female inmates reported by Stop
Prisoner Rape, a Los Angeles advocacy group, are "based on inaccurate and
misleading information,'' Wilkinson said to the Correctional Institution
"Overall, the majority of allegations . . . either do not appear to have
taken place, or if verified, were thoroughly investigated,'' he said.
Lara Stemple, executive director of the group, fired back.
"I strongly disagree that these allegations are fabricated,'' Stemple
said, calling Wilkinson's comments "disappointing and disingenuous.''
"Director Wilkinson seems to be a professional who is actively working
against taking this problem seriously,'' Stemple said.
She took particular issue with Wilkinson's comment that either prison or
State Highway Patrol investigators looked into most allegations raised by
"It simply isn't true,'' she said. "We changed the women's names to
protect their identity. Only we know who they are.''
The California group, in a report released in December, said illegal
sexual activity is common at the women's prison, with some prison
employees exchanging cosmetics, perfume and fast food for sex. There are
1,813 women at the prison.
Women who report sexual abuse are often punished, while discipline and
prosecution of staff members are rare, the group said.
The charges prompted yesterday's meeting of the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee, a panel of lawmakers that oversees prison conditions
Wilkinson described a 10-point plan released last week to stop sexual
The steps include formation of a security review team; a toll-free phone
line for prisoners to confidentially report assaults; more information for
inmates about sexual assaults, treatment and counseling; more training for
employees; increased tracking of employee sex offenders; and departmental
compliance with the new federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Wilkinson said the state's actions place Ohio "at the forefront nationally
in the effort to seriously reduce and/or eliminate sexual assaults.''
State Sen. Mark L. Mallory, D-Cincinnati, the committee chairman, said he
takes Wilkinson "at his word when he says they have looked into matters
and they are serious about reducing or eliminating the problem.''
"Certainly, the department does not want the liability that comes from
However, Mallory said he plans to discuss the possibility of a third-party
review of the situation.
Mallory's committee is expected to make recommendations in June.
Typically, employee offenders are transferred or let go quietly, the
California group reported.
Under Ohio law, sexual contact between prison employees and inmates is a
felony punishable by one to five years in prison.
Last year, the state investigated 14 alleged sexual relationships between
inmates and staff members at the prison near Marysville.
Twelve cases were closed as unfounded, while two remain open.
Systemwide, 41 employees were fired or resigned because of unauthorized
relationships with inmates. Of those, eight involved sexual relationships.