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Investigation Reveals Montana Prisoner Had Relationships with Five Female Staff

In both state and federal prisons it is illegal for staff members to have sex with prisoners. Five female employees of the Montana Department of Corrections, however, reportedly had personal relationships with prisoner Michael Murphy, 36.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press following a public records suit revealed that in 2003, two female staff members at the state prison in Deer Lodge were disciplined for having undisclosed relationships with Murphy. Prison officials were shocked to learn in 2008 that he had been involved with three other female employees, too. [See: PLN, May 2009, p.1].

One was his therapist, Killian L. Thomas. She told investigators that Murphy “kissed me one day in my office and I just thought what the fuck did I just do.” Although she said she felt manipulated and compromised, she engaged in mutual oral sex with Murphy in her office on multiple occasions and gave him about $400.

Prison guard Lisa Mantz admitted to “swapping spit” with “Murph,” and wrote him a love letter detailing how she couldn’t wait to have sex with him. Shannon Davies, another guard, said she developed a “limited emotional attachment” to Murphy, sending him a greeting card that said “I’m in love with you.”

Murphy, who is serving 25 years for theft, forgery, burglary and criminal endangerment, wrote letters to newspapers and the ACLU of Montana claiming he had been sexually assaulted by some of the women. He was not charged in connection with having sex with prison employees, though one staff member was reportedly prosecuted.

The former director of New York City’s corrections department, Martin Horn, now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has little sympathy for female guards who feel victimized. He believes an atmosphere that treats women staff members caught in sexual acts with prisoners less severely than male employees promotes such illicit relationships.

“As long as we have a double standard, we are going to see these kinds of behaviors,” said Horn. “It is a very slippery slope we go down if we say we are not going to hold female officers to the same standard.”

According to Montana State Prison Warden Mike Mahoney, 41% of the prison system’s employees are women. A 2007 U.S. Department of Justice study that analyzed the prevalence of sexual assaults in state and federal prisons found that 58% of perpetrators of staff sexual misconduct were female.

Killian Thomas faced disciplinary action by the Board of Social Work Examiners and Professional Counselors due to her sexual relationship with Murphy; she was fined $500 and her license was suspended for at least one year on July 31, 2009.

Sources: Associated Press,,,

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