New law would make sexual misconduct by corrections staff a felony
A proposed bill in Olympia would impose harsher sentences for corrections officers or staff who are convicted of sexual misconduct against inmates.
The measure is called Kimberly Bender’s law. It would significantly increase the maximum sentences for those convicted.
The bill is named after a woman who was held at the Forks jail in 2021. Bender claimed a guard named John Gray sexually harassed and stalked her. Bender's mother, Dawn Reid, said she knew that her daughter was in trouble.
“Had Kimberly not spoken up, John Gray could have assaulted more women,” she said.
The jail’s internal review found Bender’s claims unsubstantiated. Bender later died by suicide.
But her warning kicked off further investigation. That led to Gray being convicted of sexual misconduct involving four women at the Forks correction facility. Gray served 13 months of a 20-month sentence.
“It’s a gross miscarriage of justice that a man could have taken advantage of a position of power and exerted that power over women in their most vulnerable state,” said Gabriel Galanda, a lawyer who worked with Bender's family in a 2021 lawsuit.
They later won the case against the City of Forks, who the family said failed to stop the abuse of their daughter. Both Galanda and family members believed that offenders like Gray should serve more time.
A house committee is set to look at the bill tomorrow.