Courts & Crime

Kentucky moves to make sex between prison staff, inmates a felony

FRANKFORT — A measure that would make sexual contact between prison staff and an inmate a felony passed a key House committee on Wednesday and appears poised to pass the House.

Kentucky is just one of three states that considers sexual contact between prison staff and an inmate a misdemeanor. Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, the sponsor of Senate Bill 17, told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the Department of Corrections has been pushing for some time to make sexual contact between staff and prisoners a felony in order to stop the practice.

The issue came to the forefront last summer when at least a half dozen staff at the privately-run Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright were charged in relation to having sexual contact with female prisoners. The state has since moved the women from the privately-run prison to a state-run prison.

The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill on Wednesday. The Senate passed the measure earlier this month. Denton said after Wednesday’s meeting that she has not heard of any opposition to the measure. It now heads to the House floor for a vote where it will likely pass. Denton filed similar legislation last year but the measure never made it through the House.