Los Angeles Sheriff's Custody Assistant Sentenced to 3 Years for Sex Act with Female Inmate

August 16, 2002

LOS ANGELES - The nonprofit human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape said a strong message was sent today by the sentencing of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's custody assistant convicted of performing sex acts with a Twin Towers inmate.

Meko Goodley, who took part in sex acts with a female inmate at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility on Feb. 23, 1999, was convicted of the felony charge of oral copulation with an inmate, the first conviction of its kind in Los Angeles County. Judge Michael M. Johnson sentenced Goodley today to the maximum applicable sentence, three years in prison.

"This sentencing sends a strong message the abuse of inmates is a crime, despite society's callousness toward rape in prison. Sexual abuse is not acceptable, ever," said Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape.

Significantly, the victim was in the mental heath ward when the incident took place. First-time offenders, young women, and mentally disabled women are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse while incarcerated, said Stemple.

In most states, sex between a corrections officer and an inmate is considered illegal. These laws make it clear that, due to the overwhelming power imbalance, an inmate can never truly consent to sex with a member of the corrections staff.

Johnson, in announcing the sentence, underscored the importance of the power Godley wielded over the inmate.

"This was not a jailhouse romance," the judge said. "There was no consent here."

Stemple said laws prohibiting such relationships are frequently ignored.

"Corrections officials often claim that the victim consented in an effort to reduce or dismiss charges against them. A victim's status as an inmate causes some to disbelieve allegations of abuse, making prosecution a challenge," she said.

Rates for women, who are most likely to be abused by male staff members, vary greatly among institutions. In one facility, 27 percent of women reported a pressured or forced sex incident, while another had virtually no reported sexual abuse.

"The vast difference in rates among institutions says to us that prisoner rape is preventable. Proper management and training of staff can go a long way toward preventing this kind of human rights abuse," explained Stemple.