Legal Responses to Sexual Violence in Custody: State Criminal Laws Prohibiting Staff Sexual Abuse of Individuals under Custodial Supervision

Brenda V. Smith, American University Washington College of Law
Jaime M. Yarussi


This publication is part of a larger scholarly project and one in a series that aims to create a “legal toolkit” for addressing sexual violence in custody. This publication begins with a brief discussion of staff sexual misconduct, and then examines a variety of definitions of staff sexual misconduct as defined by federal law. Next, the publication explores, in detail, sexual misconduct as defined by state criminal laws in the United States, provides examples of current state criminal laws on staff sexual misconduct and discusses the legal implications of these statutes. Finally, this publication concludes by reviewing the policy issues that stakeholders and policymakers should consider when evaluating a state criminal law on staff sexual misconduct, and provides recommendations for strengthening state laws to enhance their effectiveness.