Sheriff investigating inmate work release

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
A Marshall County Jail trusty talks on the pay phone in the jail lobby, where calls cost a few coins. Inmates who have not earned such privileges can only make collect phone calls to friends and family, who must pay $3 per local call.

Marshall County Sheriff's officers are investigating the apparent lack of supervision of a prisoner by a recently fired Lewis-burg employee who, records show, allowed the inmate to visit family during work release.

"We're working on it," Sheriff Les Helton said Thursday. "When we find what we're looking for, we'll take whatever action we need to.

"The bottom line" for the department, Helton said, is to be prepared to respond to subpoenas which the sheriff and his jail administrator, Sam Bragg, anticipate from a federal court complaint they believe will be filed by Lewisburg's former stormwater director, Robert L. "R.L." Williams, who was fired by City Manager Eddie Fuller.

Fuller had assigned Williams oversight authority for inmate work crews. Inmates helped place Christmas decorations on Lewisburg's public square. There have also been grass-mowing crews and roadside litter collection crews.

Bragg has been gathering documents on the release of inmates to Williams.

"I find that in your present duties as overseeing the work of inmates, you have dropped off a female inmate to visit her sister at the street/sanitation office while taking the other inmates to a work site," Fuller wrote to Williams in a discharge paper obtained with Fuller's April 3 report to the Tennessee Department of Labor.

Bragg said, "We explain to all the inmates who go out on work crews that we don't allow them to have contact with family members or friends while they're on work crew."

That's to prevent inmates from re-entering the jail with contraband, usually cigarettes or drugs, the jail administrator said. The inmate's sister may not have had an obligation to tell about the visit, Bragg said, but the inmate did, adding that he understands why she "would be reluctant to bring it to our attention that the visit happened."

Such a visit "could be considered jail escape," Bragg said. As for an individual who allowed visitation, he said, "I suppose it could be ... aiding jail escape."

Bragg said he does not anticipate any criminal charges being filed in the case, although he said that's a decision for the district attorney's office.

Bragg said the investigation is motivated by the standards of documentation involved in a federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission response to Williams' prior complaints against Fuller. There have been two.

The first included allegations of racism concerning what kind of city vehicle was provided for Williams. That complaint was found to be without merit. The second includes an allegation that the depiction of a Confederate flag in an art print in Fuller's office created a hostile workplace for blacks. The print in question has since been removed. There are several other complaints enumerated in Williams' complaint to the EEOC.

Pick up a copy of today's edition of the Marshall County Tribune for entire coverage. Call 931-359-1188 to order an same day home delivery subscription!