Allegations, and at least one conviction, related to Kansas prison staff members trading illegal drugs for sex with female inmates certainly demands the full attention of state officials.
Recent reports in a Topeka newspaper indicated that inmates and staff at the Topeka Correctional Facility estimated that up to a third of the prison’s 250 employees had been involved in a black market that exchanged drugs for sex with female inmates. Corrections Secretary Roger Werholz countered by saying only 2 percent of the department’s 3,000 employees statewide had engaged in sexual misconduct.
That’s a lot less than one-third, but it’s still a disturbing number. If ever there was a place for a zero tolerance policy, this would be it.
There’s nothing to indicate that Werholz is satisfied to have 2 percent — or about 60 — state prison employees involved in drug trafficking and sexual misconduct. In fact, he welcomed last week’s decision by Gov. Mark Parkinson to ask the National Institute of Corrections to help locate an independent expert to conduct an outside review of the situation in Kansas prisons. It is hoped Werholz also will applaud this week’s decision by state legislators to initiate their own review of state prisons through the Legislature’s Division of Post-Audit. The goal is for both reports to be completed by early next year, in time for lawmakers to consider whether tougher laws are needed to deal with this situation.
The newspaper report was prompted by the conviction last year of a former vocational instructor at the Topeka prison on charges of trafficking in contraband and having sex with a female inmate, who became pregnant and had an abortion. It’s already illegal for prison employees to have sex with inmates, but legislators might consider tougher penalties for such crimes. The Topeka instructor was sentenced to two years probation, which hardly seems adequate for his offense.
The recent allegations are an unfortunate negative reflection on a prison system that has tallied many successes in recent years. The governor’s review and the legislative audit should help determine how widespread this problem is, but even a few cases clearly are too many.