A former dental program instructor at the Topeka Correctional Facility was arrested on Friday and charged with seven felony counts of unlawful sexual relations with female inmates.
The instructor, Tomas Co, was investigated by the Kansas Department of Corrections and the KDOC gave their investigative report to the Shawnee County District Attorney. Co is accused of sexual misconduct with seven different inmates between 2014 and 2018.
Co worked at the Topeka Correctional Facility from 2013 until December 2018, when the state fired h
m./According to The Topeka Capital-Journal, prosecutors were given the case in January and an arrest warrant was issued in February. However, KDOC officials were first aware of allegations of sexual misconduct involving Co over two years ago.
In 2017, state corrections officials were notified of allegations that Co had sexually harassed women. State and federal auditors both recommended that he be terminated, but he continued to work at the facility until the beginning of December 2018.
The first inmate complaint against Co was filed in January 2017. This led to an internal TCF investigation and TCF warden Shannon Meyer reportedly recommended termination of Co to the deputy secretary of KDOC Johnnie Goddard. Goddard declined to fire Co but disciplined him for sexual harassment.
A prison auditor for the U.S. Departent of Justice recommended that the prison terminate Co in July 2017.
In October 2018, an employee filed a new sexual harassment complaint to the warden, which led to another internal investigation by the DOC. Co was placed on administrative leave on November 16 and dismissed from his position on December 10. Prison investigators and the county prosecutor met on January 16 and an affidavit for Co's arrest was issued on February 1. He was arrested on April 8.
Attorney contributor Reed Martens represents survivors of sexual violence in civil lawsuits. Here are a few of his thoughts concerning the legal options available to those who have been sexually abused as inmates in correctional facilities:
Survivors of sexual abuse deserve justice, regardless of who they are or where the abuse occurred. The inmates of correctional facilities are no exception. When inmates are sexually abused by staff members, their abusers must be held accountable for the trauma they've caused.
Correctional facilities have a legal duty to make sure their inmates are safe from sexual abuse. But sadly, many cases of prison sexual abuse involve perpetrators who work for the correctional facility. These predators abuse their power in order to commit terrible crimes, thinking that they can't be held accountable. But they're wrong. Survivors of sexual abuse by prison employees have powerful legal rights.
In many cases of sexual abuse involving prison employees, the inmates who have been abused may have grounds for a lawsuit against the facility. This applies in cases of negligence, such as supervisors ignoring reports of sexual misconduct or harassment by an employee.
If you or someone you love has been sexually abused by a prison employee, you can learn more about your legal options by speaking with an experienced sex abuse survivors lawyer.