FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Prison guards could face charges of felony
rape for having consensual sex with inmates under legislation that
received final approval Monday, some three months after Kentucky
ordered 400 women removed from a lockup where allegations of sexual
misconduct had become widespread.
Gov. Steve Beshear said he intends to quickly sign the measure
"This legislation offers greater protections for inmates in our
custody, and helps eliminate activities that can create security
risks in our prisons," Beshear said. "Additionally, this measure,
which has been a priority for my administration since I took
office, further bolsters our commitment to ensure the safety of
Earlier this year, Beshear ordered all the female inmates
removed from the corporate-run Otter Creek Correctional Complex in
eastern Kentucky after allegations of sexual misconduct were made
against the predominantly male corps of corrections officers.
State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, said the Kentucky
Department of Corrections sought unsuccessfully to get the
legislation passed last year. With the Otter Creek controversy
fresh on lawmakers' minds, the measure passed both the Senate and
Denton said Otter Creek "underscored the problem and showed
that we really do need some additional weapons in the arsenal to
When the law takes effect later this year, prison guards,
jailers and other staffers who oversee inmates could be charged
with felony rape and sodomy for having consensual sex with
prisoners. Under current law, corrections officers face only
misdemeanor charges for consensual sex with inmates.
Beshear ordered the women moved from Otter Creek, which is
operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, to
the state-run Western Kentucky Correctional Complex. Department of
Corrections spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin said the inmate transfer
is expected to be complete by September.
The transfer came four months after the Department of
Corrections called for security improvements at Otter Creek in a
report that detailed 18 alleged cases of sexual misconduct by
prison guards there.
The report called for Corrections Corporation of America to take
action to protect women inmates at Otter Creek by making basic
changes, like assigning female guards to supervise sleeping
quarters, hiring a female security chief, and shuffling staffing so
that at least 40 percent of the work force is female.
Beshear said finding enough women willing to work as corrections
officers at Otter Creek had been difficult.
Perched on a mountainside above Wheelwright, the Otter Creek
prison came under public scrutiny when female inmates from Hawaii
complained that they had been subjected to sexual assaults by their
Corrections officials in Hawaii removed 165 inmates from Otter
Creek last year, citing safety concerns.
Corrections Corporation of America spokesman Steve Owen
previously said that his company had taken steps to prevent sexual
assaults in the prison. Those steps, he said, included installing
video cameras to deter sexual misconduct and to help investigators
determine the validity of future allegations.
Owen had said "the rogue actions of a few bad apples" led to
an unfair characterizations of Otter Creek prison guards.
The legislation is Senate Bill 17.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)