Hector Castro, County gets help in curbing jail sex offenses, Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 17, 2006.
With at least three guards charged with sexually related crimes in the past year, and five others under investigation, King County jail officials believed it made sense to attend a Washington, D.C., seminar in March on sexual misconduct in corrections.
That meeting has led to this: a visit in the coming week from members of The Moss Group, a nationally recognized firm that specializes in helping corrections facilities develop methods of curtailing sexual misconduct.
"That's great that they're taking this proactive step," said Brigette Sarabi, executive director of the Portland-based Western Prison Project. "They've got a serious problem."
Consultants from The Moss Group will meet with both corrections officers and inmates of the King County Jail, the Regional Justice Center and the juvenile detention facility, said Gary Dennis, a senior associate with The Moss Group, a Washington, D.C.-based company.
Major William Hayes, a spokesman for the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, said the group already has met with senior administrators. The firm is expected to present a report in the next 60 to 90 days with recommendations on ways to thwart continued incidents of sexual misconduct.
Dennis said it's always a good sign when the agency running the correctional facilities contacts them on their own.
"If they've asked for help, then they're acknowledging that there's a problem," he said.
Advocates for inmates supported the move by King County to ask for an outside review of the corrections facilities.
"I would say it is a good sign," said Kathy Hall-Martinez, co-executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape, a Los Angeles-based inmate advocacy group. "The Moss Group does have a good reputation."
The firm works under contract with the National Institute of Corrections, which is trying to help jail systems across the country meet new standards being developed under the 2003 Prisoner Rape Elimination Act.
Hayes said the county agency has been concerned about the cases of sexual misconduct since last year, when the first of a string of incidents came to light.
Corrections officers Louis Laurencio and Cedric McGrew were both arrested in May 2005. McGrew was later charged with first-degree custodial sexual misconduct, and Laurencio was charged with second-degree custodial sexual misconduct.
Laurencio is accused of sexually harassing and groping a female inmate, and McGrew is accused of forcing the same woman to perform a sex act on him.
Investigators later found explicit photos and letters in McGrew's locker presumed to be from other inmates. Their cases have yet to go to trial.
In a separate case, Leshaun Lake, a guard at the Regional Justice Center in Kent, was charged in June 2005 with second-degree custodial sexual misconduct for allegedly exposing himself to a female inmate.
The agency has placed five other officers on leave for investigations of sexual misconduct, including four who work at the juvenile detention center, Hayes confirmed.