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Sexual Abuse in Custody: A Case Law Survey

NCJ Number
Brenda V. Smith; Melissa C. Loomis
Date Published
February 2013
55 pages
Summary legal outcomes are presented for cases involving the alleged sexual abuse of inmates that have been heard by Federal district courts throughout the Nation.
Cases are presented under the district courts in which they were brought. They are then subdivided by the correctional status of the perpetrator and the victim, i.e., male correctional staff/male inmate; female correctional staff/male inmate; male correctional staff/female inmate; inmate on inmate; and juvenile - male correctional officer/female detainee. Within each of the subdivisions of perpetrator/victim, the cases are categorized by either "successful inmate claim" or "successful agency defense." Each of the case summaries contains a brief description of the alleged sexual abuse of an inmate by the perpetrator and the court's rationale for its decision. Successful inmate claims generally involved a violation of the inmate's eighth amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment as well as the failure of the correctional agency to take reasonable measures to prevent the incident through staff hiring, training, and supervision, as well as the institution of appropriate measures for ensuring inmate safety and responding to incidents of inmate sexual abuse. Successful agency defenses generally involved the failure of the inmate to establish that the abuse had risen to the level of cruel and unusual punishment or a failure of the inmate plaintiff to prove that the correctional agency had failed to take reasonable steps that would have prevented the abuse.