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Trouble brewing in the county jailhouse

The bizarre news coming out of the Washington County Jail in the last couple of weeks really sets a new standard for inexplicable behavior. Not one, but two female jail technicians working at the Hillsboro facility are alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with a male prisoner at the jail.

In the first case, Jill Curry, 38, was charged with six counts of first degree custodial misconduct, a felony, along with 22 other infractions.

The affidavit of charges against Curry reads like a script for a bad episode of “Desperate Housewives.” It details how, on six separate occasions, Curry allegedly engaged in sex with an inmate. According to the report, Curry was supervising the unit where the 25-year-old inmate was being housed. A video camera apparently shows Curry letting the prisoner out of his cell, and then going into a supply closet with him.

Curry was arrested July 16. Shockingly, on Aug. 19, another jail technician, Brett Robinson, 32, was arrested for essentially the same crime — alleged sexual misconduct — with the same inmate. Robinson has been charged with six counts of first degree sexual misconduct and six counts of first degree official misconduct.

By all accounts, the two jail workers did not know of the other’s involvement with the same prisoner, which adds yet another baffling layer to the case.

The questions these cases spark are endless, but the basic one is this: Why would two presumably intelligent women, both in their 30s and clearly old enough to know better, get sexually involved with an inmate — especially an inmate in jail for, among other charges, sexual abuse?

The inmate in question (ironically, he is being classified as a “victim” as the county investigates these cases) is in jail facing charges of sexual harassment, second degree assault, failure to register as a sex offender, tampering with a witness and unlawful use of a weapon.

The entire situation defies logic on a basic level. These women had professional responsibilities. They were well-compensated for their work (the annual salary for jail technician positions ranges from $43,742 to $58,656). They worked in a high-security environment, yet ignored common sense safety guidelines.

The county jail is located at 215 S.W. Adams St. in downtown Hillsboro. The facility houses as many as 572 inmates and employs about 180. Curry had been an employee at the jail since October 2004, while Robinson was hired in January 2013. They were not rookies.

Something is truly amiss here on many levels. In the first place, how could a female employee be allowed to be alone in a maximum security cell block with male inmates? That in itself seems highly questionable, and there clearly needs to be more oversight.

If the charges are accurate, these two jail workers put not only themselves but other employees at risk with their behavior. Indeed, the unit where these trysts allegedly took place is regarded as a maximum security area of the jail.

These two employees have done a real disservice to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, to Sheriff Pat Garrett and to their fellow employees. Without doubt, the vast majority of employees at the jail are diligent and professional in the way they handle their duties, yet now the facility is in danger of becoming a laughing stock in the wake of these creepy allegations.

This is a highly unfortunate, self-inflicted black eye for the entire Washington County Jail operation.

Here’s another aspect of this case to consider: The sheriff’s office screens employees before hiring. Applicants for jail technician positions must pass a criminal background check, submit to an investigation of their personal background, undergo psychological evaluations and have a drug test. These background checks are reportedly handled by WCSO detectives, and this is another area that should be thoroughly reviewed going forward.

Clearly the evaluations are missing something when this level of appalling judgment is being displayed by two different employees.

From everything we’ve seen, Sheriff Garrett has been doing a solid overall job, but he needs to get a quick handle on this situation and get it turned around. There has to be a swift and very thorough review of policies and procedures at the jail, and an outside agency needs to be involved.

“Addressing these issues demands immediate changes and a thorough, holistic review of protocols within the jail,” Garrett was quoted as saying when the allegations came to light.

We couldn’t agree more.




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