Three things not to be: A prison guard, pregnant and charged with rape

Corrections officers aren't supposed to brutalize the inmates in their custody, but they're not encouraged to be too fond of them, either. The system frowns on "inappropriate relationships" between staff and prisoners -- and such dangerous sexual liaisons tend to lead to explosive scandals, like this one and this one and this one.

As a matter of policy, any sexual relationship between staff and prisoners, consensual or not, is considered inherently coercive and can lead to assault charges. Yet when the situation involves a female officer and a male inmate, the offense is often dealt with less harshly than it would be if the genders were reversed.

Which makes New Mexico's actions in a recent case of taboo guard-prisoner love all the more startling.

Reyna Lujan, 29, a female corrections officer working at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, has been charged with three counts of "criminal sexual penetration" for allegedly inducing male inmate Erik Braman to have sex with her.

Lujan allegedly caused this to happen repeatedly over a three-month period. She resigned her job last spring, claiming "medical complications with her pregnancy." According to news reports, Braman admitted being the father of Lujan's child in phone calls recorded at the jail and has since moved in with her.

The heavy charges against Lujan are being hailed in some quarters as a step toward equal enforcement of the law. But you have to wonder about the conversation around the Christmas tree in years to come, when the little tyke asks why Mommy is in jail, and someone (maybe Braman, maybe someone else) has to explain it's because Daddy was in jail when the two got to know each other -- and then Mommy caused Daddy to have sex with her again and again.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast