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Delaware Law: Punishing Prisoners for Reporting Sexual Abuse by Guards

by David M. Reutter

In July 1980, the state of Delaware criminalized all sex in its prisons. Critics cry that the law requires a prisoner to be convicted even when the sex is non-consensual, preventing prisoners from reporting sexual abuse by guards.

Delawares law prohibits sexual intercourse and deviate sexual intercourse, but does not apply to oral sex. A conviction can merit up to two years in prison. Only two guards have been convicted since the laws enactment.

One of those is ex-guard Rudolph Hawkins, who in 1996 pled no contest to having sex with Valerie Stewart. When Stewart, who was serving time for robbery, became pregnant, she named Hawkins as the father. DNA supported that claim. The baby was taken by the state and put up for adoption.

Hawkins not only lost his job as a guard, but also faced a civil suit filed by Stewart. A jury ordered Hawkins to pay Stewart $25,000 in compensation and $100,000 in punitive damages. I felt empty-like I didnt have a soul-like the walking dead, Stewart told the jury. According to her lawyer, she only has an IQ of 80 and the mental capacity of a 14-year-old.

Womens rights advocates say that prisoners like Stewart and those with mental illness or juveniles are incapable of freely consenting to sex behind bars because guards and detention facility employees control every facet of their lives. They criticize Delawares law because if they report what could be termed consensual sex, they may be charged with a felony and have another two years tacked on to their sentence.

Insiders, however, say that prison officials act to protect guards that have sex with prisoners. This is accomplished by transferring the guard and putting the prisoner in Unit 8, a special wing of the womens prison reserved for troublemakers and the mentally ill.

According to Dorothy Anderson, who worked at Baylar Womens Correctional Institution from 1996 to 2003, sex between guards and prisoners in wide spread. They believed that when a woman was in there with no man around except for them, they were there for the taking, she said, It was happening all the time. It was just sick.

Anderson said the women would have sex with guards for extra privileges or food. Theyll bring them Little Debbie Cakes, a Pepsi or a couple of pieces of KFC.

Delaware prison officials say they are aware of only three substantiated cases of guards having sex with prisoners in the last five years. Each resigned before being terminated, says Beth Welch, Delawares prison spokeswomen. Sexual relations between employees and inmates are against the law. It results in terminations of the employee. There are no mitigating factors or second chances awarded in such cases.

Anderson disagrees. Theyre handled by the wardens-quietly, she said.
What happens on the property stays on the property, former prisoner Sharon Wall agrees with Anderson. She said one of the women on her unit at Baylor openly discussed having sex with a guard. We all knew it was going on, Wall said. They suspended the guard. They put her in isolation-Unit 8.

Most states have laws prohibiting sex in their prisons. Only in Delaware, Nevada, and Arizona can both the guard and prisoner be charged, which effectively prevents prisoners from reporting such incidents experts say. In Delaware, it seems that cases like Stewarts, which result in pregnancy, are the only ones prison officials act upon. Otherwise prisoners try to hide it to obtain extra favors or to avoid punishment or retaliation from prison officials for reporting sex with guards.

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