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Texas Prison Employees Accused of Improper Relationships with Sex Offenders

Three Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) employees have been accused of engaging in improper relationships with prisoners in sex offender evaluation or treatment programs at the Goree Unit in Huntsville. Two of the employees were counselors in the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) and the third was a guard. The TDCJ credited other staff members with uncovering the misconduct, but in at least one case a prisoner reported the employee’s behavior.

In the first incident, an unidentified associate psychologist in the Goree Unit SOTP was suspected of having an inappropriate relationship with a sex offender. The prisoner was awaiting transfer to another facility when the psychologist attempted to continue the relationship, and tried to enter areas of the prison she had no reason to go to. Her coworkers reported her. When confronted with evidence that she had been visiting those parts of the prison, she resigned. She later denied any wrongdoing and said she was unaware that she had appeal rights after being forced to quit.

Another associate psychologist at the Goree Unit SOTP, Lisa Marie Bailey, resigned on September 10, 2010 after TDCJ investigators intercepted numerous letters she had written to a sex offender she was counseling. Bailey sent the letters under the alias of Marie Jones, using a PO Box as a return address.

“When the inmate was moved to another facility, while [Bailey] was being investigated, then we noted that the letters continued and they were romantic in nature,” said TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. Bailey quit after being confronted about the letters and accused of engaging in an improper relationship.

In the third case, prison guard J.D. Lemke, Jr., 44, resigned on June 20, 2009 after he slipped a piece of paper with his phone number on it to a male prisoner who was at the Goree Unit for “Dynamic Risk Assessment” to determine what Sex Offender Registry security classification he would receive.

“This officer apparently gave him his phone number and said: ‘Hey, why don’t you call me when you get released’ and the inmate reported it,” Lyons stated. “They did not end up meeting, but the evidence was enough that the officer resigned.”

In fact, after the prisoner was released, and with TDCJ investigators present, the prisoner called the number Lemke had given him; Lemke answered and said he would pick up the prisoner the next day. He was then confronted with this information and accused of solicitation of sexual favors.

The TDCJ confirmed in April 2011 that all three of the employees had resigned due to the allegations of misconduct. Bailey and Lemke were not identified by the mainstream news media; Prison Legal News obtained their names and details of their misconduct investigations by filing a public records request with the TDCJ.

Prison officials said they had forwarded a report about the allegations involving Bailey to the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. There is no indication the Board took any action against her, however, as she remains licensed as an SOTP counselor

Some people have tried to blame the prisoners.

“Any inmate can be very manipulative in order to get more privileges and so the boundaries have to be really strict,” said Dr. Barbara Levinson, a certified sex offender counselor. “Sometimes that trust gets exploited by the inmate and the purpose of that is so they can get more privileges or they can have what they deem as a special relationship with a therapist.”

Levinson recommended extra training to help counselors recognize and prevent manipulation by sex offenders. “You have to really know what that offender is trying to do. Sometimes they can manipulate you, sometimes they can try to seduce you, sometimes they can try and act out their arousal patterns on the therapist and the therapist really has to understand what the boundary is,” she said.

According to Levinson’s worldview, there are no predatory counselors – only manipulative prisoners. Apparently it is always the prisoners’ fault even though prison employees have all the power and control in the staff-offender relationship. Other than prisoners, there is no other group of sex offense victims for which such a blame-the-victim mentality would be tolerated.

Meanwhile, TDCJ Inspector General John Moriarty said he was never notified of potential criminal conduct by prison employees in at least two of the Goree Unit cases, even though his office is required to investigate such incidents. “We should have at least taken a look at it and asked some questions,” he acknowledged.

Perhaps that failure to investigate is somehow the prisoners’ fault, too.

Sources:, TDCJ investigative records

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