Senate passes Padden bill raising penalty for custodial sexual misconduct

The Senate today voted 48-0 to pass a bipartisan bill that aims to impose longer sentences on sexually abusive jail and prison guards.

Senate Bill 5033 would reclassify the crime of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct as a Class B felony, allowing a prison term of 10 years instead of the current five-year maximum. The proposal is prime-sponsored by 4th District Sen. Mike Padden, the ranking Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

“Officers who work in our state’s correctional facilities are part of the law-enforcement community just as much as the officers who patrol our communities and investigate crimes,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “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.

“Senate Bill 5033 would increase the punishment for corrections officers who sexually assault or abuse inmates in the course of their jobs,” added Padden.

Padden’s bill, named “Kimberly Bender’s law,” was inspired by a KING-TV investigation about a Clallam County jail guard, John Gray, who served just over a year in prison after sexually assaulting four women.

During the Law and Justice Committee’s public hearing on SB 5033 earlier this session, Dawn Reid testified in favor of the proposal. Reid is the mother of Kimberly Bender, a 23-year-old Quileute woman who died by suicide in her Forks jail cell in 2019 after reporting to city officials that Gray harassed her. Reid asked Padden to name the legislation after her daughter.

Michele Devlin, Clallam County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor, also testified in support of the bill. Devlin prosecuted the 2020 case against Gray, a former Forks jail guard who was convicted in 2021 of two felony and two misdemeanor counts of custodial sexual misconduct and served 13 months of his 20-month sentence.

SB 5033 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.