Topeka Responding to a scathing audit of the Kansas prison system, the Senate approved a bill Thursday aimed at halting unlawful sexual relations between guards and inmates.
The 40-0 vote sends the measure to the House.
The bill increases the penalties for unlawful sexual misconduct and trafficking contraband in Kansas prisons. Anyone convicted of unlawful sexual misconduct would have to register as a sex offender.
Unlawful sexual misconduct would move from a level 10 to level five felony, moving the potential sentence from presumptive probation to a presumptive prison term.
Auditors looked at instances of sexual misconduct at the Topeka prison for women, as well as relations between prison staff and inmates at El Dorado and Lansing. The audit recommended greater oversight by the corrections department, as well as tougher penalties.
The review was prompted by the sexual misconduct allegations at the Topeka prison. Those allegations of trading sex for contraband and other special treatment led to the warden’s reassignment.
Auditors urged legislators to increase the penalties for prison staff for sexual misconduct and trafficking in contraband, and to improve how information about staff involved in undue familiarity is managed.
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican, said the changes would address conduct that he said had no place in the state’s prison system and will improve the safety of inmates.
The bill also covers parole and community corrections officers, as well as teachers.