Missouri bill would make sexual relations between correctional workers, offenders legal

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY – Sexual relations between correctional workers and individuals on parole or probation will no longer be illegal, pending the governor's signature.

The Senate passed a House bill aimed at changing legislation that made it illegal for any correctional facility worker to have sexual intercourse with a person on parole or probation, even if the act was consensual.

Rep. Terry Witte, D-Vandalia, said he sponsored the bill after hearing from a couple in his district that was told by the Corrections Department they would have to separate because of the legislation. He said both had worked for the department, but while on maternity leave, the woman was put on probation for shoplifting.

The Corrections Department "also said it was a law of unintended consequences, that the department did not mean to separate families just because one person was an offender — you know, placed on probation — and the partner or spouse was a corrections officer," Witte said.

Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, said the Missouri General Assembly had been working on this kind of legislation since 2000. He said it intended the 2006 expansion to prevent sexual relations between parole officers and those they oversee.

The adopted legislation did more than intended.

Shoemyer said what inadvertently happened was that the expansion meant that any corrections employee who had sexual contact with someone who was on parole or probation would be guilty. The legislation might be problematic, Shoemyer said, because the employee might not know whether or not someone was on parole or probation.

Shoemyer said he thought the mistake occurred because of the rush to put the legislation into law, and it was not revised because senators reached their term limits.

The bill, which was less than a page in length, passed the Senate with no votes against it and minimal debate.

"It was pretty straightforward so it was easy to understand, and there was no opposition, so it just went straight through," said Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County.


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