MAYVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – News 4 has learned a former Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office employee, accused of having sexual contact with a female inmate, is facing three felony counts of criminal sexual act.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace tells News 4, a grand jury indicted Jeffrey Swan last week. Swan has since resigned from his job as a correction officer.
Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley characterizes it as a serious crime.
“It’s an unfortunate situation. I think it’s a situation that clearly, the laws defines as being improper, due to the nature of the relationship between a guard and a prisoner,” Foley says.
The accusations were brought to Sheriff Gerace’s attention several weeks ago. Both his and Foley’s offices investigated.
“It’s alleged that the correction officer had sexual contact with a female inmate,” Gerace says. “After the investigation, he was suspended without pay. And he has been charged with criminal sexual act in the third degree, which is a Class E felony. He is a former employee now, and now is pending the outcome of the criminal case that’s been levied against him.”
Gerace could not comment on whether or not the alleged sex was consensual, but noted it is never legal. New York State law says it is impossible for prisoners to voluntarily consent to sexual advances from staff members who exert complete control over their lives, and sometimes their release from prison.
All 50 states have laws that make any sexual misconduct between an inmate and jail guard a crime, and consent cannot be used as a defense. Because of the institutional nature of jails, which gives guards complete control over prisoners’ lives, it’s impossible, the laws say, for inmates to give consent.
“And so, even if they were a so-called willing participant in an act, they cannot give consent. And that’s something that’s ingrained into correction officers’ training and their minds; they know that,” Sheriff Gerace says. “It’s aggravating, it’s maddening, and it’s criminal.”
“These people are entrusted with providing security and care for these individuals, and you just really don’t like to see these things happen,” Foley says.