(Olympia, WA) -- Jail and prison guards who are convicted of sexually abusing inmates face longer sentences in Washington State. This after a bill signed by Governor Jay Inslee that received unanimous bipartisan support by the Legislature this session.

The bill, SB5033 changes the charge of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct, (in which the corrections officer has sexual intercourse with the victim) from a Class C to Class B felony, in which sentences can range from 15 months to as many 9.6 years in prison. The new law takes effect in July, it reclassifies second-degree custodial sexual misconduct (in which the corrections officer has sexual contact with the victim) from a gross misdemeanor to a Class C felony punishable by as little as six months to as much as eight years.

“I’m very pleased that the governor has signed this bill after both the Senate and House unanimously passed it earlier this session,” said bill sponsor Mike Padden, (R-Spokane Valley). “Officers who work in jails and state correctional facilities are part of the law-enforcement community just as much as the officers who patrol our communities and investigate crimes. Like all the other people we entrust to administer justice, corrections officers must be held to a high standard, especially considering the unique level of authority they have over people in custody.”

The bill was named “Kimberly Bender’s law,” in honor of a 23-year-old Quileute woman who died of suicide in her Forks jail cell in 2019 after reporting to city officials that a guard sexually harassed her. That guard was convicted in 2021 of two felony and two misdemeanor counts of custodial sexual misconduct and served 13 months of his 20-month sentence.

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