On Tuesday, Aug. 17, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department reported that a jail guard in Guilford County’s downtown Greensboro jail had been charged with having sex with an inmate. 

The act was said to be consensual.  However, given the power dynamic between a jail guard and inmates, the notion of “consent” is hard to unpack.

The Sheriff’s Department announced that criminal charges were being brought against Guilford County Detention Services Officer Barry J. Ferrell for violating North Carolina General Statute 14-27.31(b) – which makes it a felony for a jail guard to have intercourse or other sexual activity with an inmate.

The department alleges that Ferrell engaged in a “consensual sexual act” with a female inmate.  That information became known after an investigation by Sheriff’s Department detectives. Currently, the charges emanate from a single incident alleged to have taken place at the county’s 1,032-bed detention center in Greensboro. 

According to the department’s findings, the sexual act occurred in July 2021.

Ferrell has been released on a $75,000 unsecured bond.

The press release from the Sheriff’s Department that provided the information added that, “As this matter is presently being prosecuted by the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office, no further information will be released at this time.”

The NC General Statute being applied is titled “Sexual activity by a substitute parent or custodian.”  The applicable language reads: “If a person having custody of a victim of any age or a person who is an agent or employee of any person, or institution, whether such institution is private, charitable, or governmental, having custody of a victim of any age engages in vaginal intercourse or a sexual act with such victim, the defendant is guilty of a Class E felony.”

The statue also notes that  “Consent is not a defense to a charge under this section.”