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NRL News
Page 24
October 2009
Volume 36
Issue 10

Kansas Inmate Aborts Baby
Fathered by Corrections Department Employee

By Liz Townsend

Newspaper reports in early October exposed a sordid environment in Kansas prisons where corrections department employees trade cash and black-market items with female prisoners for sex. An inmate at the Topeka Correctional Facility conceived a child with an employee and aborted the baby in December 2007. The prisoner, Tracy Keith, told the Topeka Capital-Journal that although she was interested in planning an open adoption for the baby, she felt an unspoken pressure to make the problem “disappear.”

While she admitted that officially she made the final decision to abort the baby, Keith said she asked a social worker if an open adoption would be a possibility. “Keith said she was led to believe that with two years left on her sentence, and no solid family support network on the outside, the state would sever her parental rights if the baby was born,” the Capital-Journal reported. Keith also said she was aware of “hints” that an abortion would allow her to avoid further problems during the remainder of her sentence.

Kansas pro-lifers called for further investigation into any coercion that may have been used against Keith. “It is against the law to force a woman to get an abortion,” said Kansans for Life legislative director Kathy Ostrowski. The Capital-Journal published several articles examining Keith’s case and other reports of sexual misconduct between prison employees and inmates. In the wake of the articles, Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson announced that the state would conduct a policy and legal review.

I am angry any time there is an incident of exploitation of a prisoner,” Parkinson told the Capital-Journal. “It is completely unacceptable, totally indefensible.”

Keith told the newspaper that the employee, vocational plumbing instructor Anastacio “Ted” Gallardo, would often trade tobacco and food with female inmates in exchange for sex. She agreed to a trade for cash in October 2007, and knew soon after that she was pregnant.

According to the Capital-Journal, Gallardo tried several times to kill the baby without prison officials discovering the pregnancy. He smuggled morning-after pills to Keith and insisted she swallow them, tried to get RU846 pills illegally from Mexico, arranged for another inmate to kick Keith in the stomach, and attempted to persuade her to escape from jail and have the abortion. None of these schemes resulted in the baby’s death, and prison officials discovered that Keith was pregnant based on a tip from another inmate.

A corrections department employee drove Keith to a Planned Parenthood clinic to abort the baby on December 19, 2007. The abortion was paid for by donors, and samples of the baby’s tissue were taken for DNA testing. The tests showed that Gallardo was the father, according to the Capital-Journal.

Gallardo pled guilty June 19, 2008, to charges of trafficking in contraband and unlawful sexual conduct. Although prosecutors asked District Court Chief Judge Nancy Parrish to sentence him to jail time, Gallardo received only two years’ probation.

Keith faced derision from other inmates after the abortion. “I was called a baby killer,” she told the Capital-Journal. “They said I was a snitch for telling the truth. They tried to jump me.”

The newspaper’s investigation found that one-third of Topeka Correctional Facility employees may have been involved in contraband exchanges with prisoners. Corrections officials called this figure inflated, estimating that 2% of the department’s employees across the state have committed such crimes.

Sexual abuse of prisoners is a persistent evil in the corrections system across the country. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission found that inmates are abused more often by staff members than by other prisoners, and recommended that officials must take concrete steps to stop sexual exploitation of inmates.

Individuals who are incarcerated have basic human rights,” said commission chairman U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, according to the Capital-Journal. “Just because they’ve committed a crime and they’re incarcerated does not mean that their human dignity can be abused.”