Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Pennsylvania Ban on Sex Between Staff and Prisoners Struck Down

On December 10, 2001, Montgomery county court judge Marino Rossanese struck down as unconstitutional a 1998 Pennsylvania law that bans sex between prisoners and prison and jail employees. The ruling came in the case of Eileen Mayfield, 43, a guard for 18 years at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.

In December 2000, several prisoners at the jail alleged that Mayfield engaged in sexual acts with them. Prisoner Gene White claims Mayfield performed a (unspecified in media reports) sexual act on him five times and paid him hundreds of dollars worth of commissary items for the privilege of doing so. Prosecutors filed three charges of institutional sexual assault against Mayfield.

Mayfield claimed the charges were in retaliation for a sexual harassment lawsuit and complaint she had filed against the jail's deputy warden, Julio Algarin.

Judge Rossanese didn't deal with the retaliation claims. Instead, he dismissed the charges against Mayfield by holding that the law banning sex between prisoners and prison/jail employees was vague and overbroad because it flatly outlaws sex between guards and prisoners. Rossanese gave a bizarre example of a hypothetical prisoner out on work release being barred from having sex with a spouse who works as a guard at another facility. District attorney Bruce Castor said he would appeal. "You can't have the prison guards having sex with the inmates. Consent can't be an issue, or you'd have sex in all the prisons all over Pennsylvania," Castor said.

In the wake of ongoing scandals where prison employees have raped female prisoners, many states have belatedly enacted laws banning sex between prisoners and staff. The laws operate on the premise that prisoners, like minors and the mentally disabled, are incapable of "consenting" to have sex with their captors due to the inherent coercion of the relationship between the keepers and the kept. This is the first constitutional challenge to this type of law that PLN is aware of.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer .

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login