Inmate says she, officer had sex Police step up probe of allegations of misconduct at jail

August 02, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A female inmate at the Howard County Detention Center alleges that she willingly had oral sex with a male jail officer on several occasions while imprisoned earlier this summer, including one time in the center's medical unit.

In an interview with The Sun this week, the inmate, who asked not to be identified, also said another officer -- a sergeant -- repeatedly asked her to have intercourse earlier this summer and cornered her on one occasion in a changing room to demand that she have oral sex. She said she resisted these demands.

Those details emerged this week as Howard police intensified their investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct by male officers and female inmates at the jail. The 361-bed facility in Jessup usually houses about 250 inmates, of whom about 10 percent are women.

James N. Rollins, director of the detention center, said yesterday a jail employee first brought the allegations to him July 22. He said the probe is focused on two officers, one of them a sergeant, and at least one female inmate.

But jail officers, in earlier interviews, have alleged that as many as five male officers participated in sexual misconduct with as many as three female inmates.

Howard police and jail officials have refused to give details about the allegations. Rollins said he was to be briefed by police this morning and would discuss the case after that.

In an interview earlier this week with a Sun reporter, a female inmate who has been questioned in the investigation said she engaged in sexual activity with one officer and had been the subject of sexual advances by another.

In one case, she said, a sergeant confronted her in an intake area of the jail where she was changing her clothes for a work-release job, unzipped his pants and demanded that she perform oral sex. The inmate said she refused.

The sergeant "approached me four times, verbally coming up to me, saying when is he going to" have sex, the inmate said.

The inmate said that when investigators interviewed her, she gave them identifying details about the officer's genitals that could be used to verify her story.

Officers and a union official that represents jail staff said Howard police now are seeking to photograph the genitals of at least one officer and conduct polygraph tests on that officer and another to verify her allegations.

"I think they'll need a court order for that," said George Gisin, a staff member for Council 67 of the Maryland Public Employees Union, which represents jail officers.

"What are they going to do -- have a lineup? My advice to the staff is no photographs should be taken."

Gisin said the union is researching whether officers can be subjected to a lie detector test against their will.

Rollins, who last week turned the sexual misconduct complaint over to the county Police Department's Internal Affairs Division to investigate, said he was unaware of a request for photographs.

"As far as I know, there was not a request for photographs," Rollins said.

No action has been taken against officers being investigated.

Sexual misconduct by correctional officers can lead to suspensions, terminations and criminal charges, depending on the nature of the infractions, prison experts said.

"There are no standards for that but I can't think of an institution in the state that wouldn't think that was improper," said Francis Manear, assistant director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions. "Some things are just common sense."

Sexual contact between officers and inmates is "a very severe infraction," said Stephen Ingley, executive director of the American Jail Association, based in Hagerstown.

"In some ways, it's viewed as shocking."

Rollins, who has barred interviews with any officers, said he could not recall any other sexual misconduct incidents at the jail since he became director in 1991.

Pub Date: 8/02/96

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