Prisoner charms female guards

Michael Murphy convinced five workers to have sex with him or do illegal favors -- now some claim to be victims

Topics: Sexual abuse, Broadsheet, Sex, Love and Sex,

Michael Murphy is an alleged womanizer who seduces women, uses them to satisfy his needs and then discards them like trash. What sets this player apart from the rest, though, is that he’s done all of this while in the slammer — with five female guards, a clinical therapist and other prison workers. The 36-year-old’s exploits while at a Montana prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for burglary, forgery and theft, are detailed in new documents published Monday by The Smoking Gun. Prisoners are considered legally incapable of giving sexual consent — seeing as they are, you know, prisoners — but some of the women involved with Murphy see themselves as the real victims, according to the Associated Press.

One female guard admitted to “swapping spit” with him and exchanging sexy notes, one of which detailed how she “couldn’t wait to screw him, fuck him, ride his dick.” (She denied any actual sexual contact, although he says they had oral sex ten times.) Murphy tried to get her to bring him tobacco and a cellphone, but she claims to have resisted his requests. Another guard developed a “limited emotional attachment” to him, according to an official report, and sent him a card that began: “I’m in love with you.” He also convinced his therapist to give him hundreds of dollars and both perform and receive oral sex several times. Two other employees also engaged in unspecified misconduct with Murphy. What’s more, after these cases emerged, he was transferred to another facility, where a female food worker is already under investigation for being compromised by Murphy.

It seems likely the man has a skill for persuasion and manipulation — many criminals do. He also may have a particular knack for charming women. But is it really reasonable to paint these women as his victims? Murphy’s therapist tries to explain how this made-for-porn scenario played out: “He kissed me one day in my office and I just thought, ‘What the fuck did I just do, what just happened?” she told investigators. “From that point on I just, I felt like I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t say no to him, I couldn’t get myself out of it. It’s like he had that over me, and he continued to push.” In the documents published by TSG, she doesn’t mention any explicit threats or coercion from Murphy; it seems she felt imprisoned by her own embarrassment, shame and an understandable fear for her job.

An unnamed female employee, who lost her job due to her dalliances with Murphy, told the AP that the prison should have better protected its female workers from one-one-one time with Murphy, who was widely known as a skilled charmer and manipulator. “Everyone needs to be held accountable,” she said on condition of anonymity. “I need to be held accountable, and I think I was. The prison needs to be held accountable, and Michael Murphy needs to be held accountable.” Another worker, who was disciplined for failing to report Murphy’s transgressions with one of her coworkers, said: “They need to do something about protecting women from predators like him, I know he’s a predator,” she said. “I know he’s done it to several people before and, I didn’t know until after the fact, after all this stuff happened, but I found out all about Michael Murphy.”

The truth, though, is that workers go through training about how to respond in these types of scenarios, because these scenarios aren’t all that uncommon; and female prison employees are behind a disproportionate percentage of sexual misconduct cases. It isn’t clear why that is, exactly, or whether most feel victimized as a result — but the argument that prisons need to do more to protect female jailers from being seduced by inmates makes me uneasy. Lady-guards are up against quite a challenge already in keeping under control a population of criminals, most of whom are probably bigger, stronger and scarier than they are. Do they really need to be treated as so emotionally fragile that they need extra-special protection against manipulation? Not to mention, the sexual double-standard at play is awfully unfair to men. What would be the response to a male prison guard who claimed to be a victim because a female inmate seduced and manipulated him? Riotous laughter, that’s what.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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