Sheriff David Turner on Monday released the name of a jailer who has been terminated because he was allegedly was giving inmates marijuana and tobacco and had sexual relations with female inmates.
Sheriff David Turner on Monday released the name of a jailer who has been terminated because he was allegedly was giving inmates marijuana and tobacco and had sexual relations with female inmates. Another jailer may face charges because he allegedly allowed the incidents to happen without reporting them.
Zack Allen, 26, of Arkadelphia was terminated and arrested after an investigation revealed he allegedly took an undisclosed amount of marijuana and loose smoking tobacco into the jail according to Turner. Turner said Allen gave inmates the contraband in exchange for favors.
Allen had been employed as a jailer at the county jail for six months. He faces three counts of furnishing prohibited articles, each a Class C felony punishable by three to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
He also faces two counts of second-degree sexual assault because he reportedly allowed two female inmates, on separate occasions, to trade sexual favors in exchange for contraband, Turner said.
Asked if the relationship was consentual, Chief Deputy David Buck said, “It doesn’t matter” because, under state law, no one in charge of another person — whether it be a teacher, law enforcement officer or other caretaker — can partake in sexual activities with those they are in charge of.
“If you have authority (over someone), it’s still coercion,” Buck added.
The law applies to the state’s departments of correction and community correction as well as county and city jails, among other agencies.
If convicted, Allen could spend five to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000 for each count of sexual assault.
Turner said he learned of the incident on Wednesday from one of the victims. He said he then began reviewing video surveillance of Allen, who was apparently seen on camera with a female in a foyer between one of the jail’s main corridors and the A-block.
Turner reviewed the video with investigators on Wednesday and Thursday before filing charges and firing Allen on Friday. He remains in the jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.
The other jailer, whose name was not released, apparently had knowledge of the incidents and did not report them to the proper authorities. Turner said he may be charged with furnishing prohibited articles, acting as an accessory to crime or aiding and abetting. Prosecuting Attorney Blake Batson will determine which charges, if any, the unnamed jailer will face.
One of the victims remains incarcerated in the county’s facility, while another is out on bond.
Female inmates have in the past been housed in the “drunk tank” between the main part of the jail and the dispatch/booking room. Now, they are housed inside the jail, separate from the male inmates. Matron/dispatchers are responsible for overseeing the well being of the female prisoners. Male jailers are not supposed to monitor them unless it is a medical emergency; and even then the male jailers are required to have a matron with them.
“A male jailer shouldn’t have been back there in the first place,” Turner said. “It’s against jail standards. The matrons were supposed to have been checking on (the females).” But they were busy with 911 calls and other duties, Turner said, so they allowed the male jailer to care for the females. The matrons are supposed to have an on-duty male jailer or someone else answer radio calls and dispatch while they check on the females, Turner said.
The matron/dispatchers were disciplined, he said, by reviewing their job duties and signing an agreement to their job duties. Buck said the sheriff’s administration and those disciplined came to a “mutual agreement” regarding their job duties. Turner said he had prepared letters of resignation for any matron who wanted to do so as a result of the incident; but no one resigned.
The jail has since been checked for any additional contraband that may have been brought into the jail, Turner said. The only thing found was a “shank,” or a knife-like object crafted by an inmate from any hard, viable object he can find. The shank was made from a piece of copper pipe torn off the inmate’s cell toilet.
But it is unlikely that, if charged, he will be found guilty because it is difficult to prove an inmate has done something inside his cell when he shares it with another inmate, Turner added. “We’re looking at charging him, but we’d have to prove he had possession” of the object. Defense attorneys, he said, often tackle such cases successfully because of the lack of proof against the inmate. “It’s frustrating for us because, if you have two people in a cell, you can’t prove it.” Surveillance cameras are not allowed inside cells because it would violate an inmate’s privacy when he uses the bathroom.
“We’re going to get it stopped,” Turner said of contraband being brought inside the jail. Another surveillance camera will be installed “to take the blind spot away” from where the alleged incidents occurred. Also, no male jailers will be allowed to unlock a female’s cell door “unless it is a medical emergency, and even then they will have to have a matron with them.” An additional intercom system will be installed as well to improve communications between matrons, who sit in the dispatch room away from the jails, and the jailers, who sit in a room next to the jail corridor’s entrance.
Turner installed a 10-foot security fence along the perimeter of the jail after finding, on several occasions, contraband inside cells. Before the fence was installed, people on the outside would make what is called a “drop.” The suspect would communicate with inmates, finding out exactly where their cell was located in relation to outside the facility. The inmate, meanwhile, would fashion a rope out of torn bed sheets and tie a sock at the end. The sock would be dropped to the ground below their window, which they would burn a hole through with a hot light bulb, and the person outside would drop the illegal items in the sock and give it a tug. The tug gave the inmate waiting inside next to his window the cue to pull the rope through his window and get the contraband inside the jail.
After installing the fence and additional security cameras last year — and after hiring two more jailers as approved by the Quorum Court — the problem “had been decreased to a point where the only way that contraband could be introduced into the facility was if someone would bring it in,” Turner said.
Prisoners who leave the jail as part of an inmate work crew are checked and patted down before they are allowed back inside the jail, but those employed by the jail are not, Turner said.
In an unrelated incident, a third jailer, 27-year-old Brandon Davidson of Amity, was fired recently after having worked for the sheriff’s office for two months. Turner said he stole an inmate’s hydrocodone and took the pain medication while working at the jail in December.
Davidson was released from jail on court terms that he would enter a drug rehabilitation facility, where he remains. He faces charges of theft of property, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of narcotics in a detention facility, a Class A felony punishable by six to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
Asked how Allen made it inside with the contraband, Turner said, “He brought it in in disguise.” Allen may have snuck it in the jail in his pocket, or he may have even brought it in a lunch pail, Buck said, as jailers are allowed to bring in their lunch and are not searched before going inside. Turner and Buck said the sheriff’s office will continue to monitor surveillance inside the jail, and will try to review video on a daily basis.
Jailers, like sheriff’s deputies, must pass a background check and undergo certain training for certification.
Turner said each and every person hired to work at the jail must first pass a background check, and those of Allen and Davidson came up clear of any past criminal record. “We put our trust in people,” Buck said of the jail’s employees. “We hire them to do a job, and expect them to be honest.”