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Deputy-Inmate Friendship Sparks Changes at Jail


"For obvious reasons, we don't allow personal types of exchanges between inmates and deputies," sheriff's office spokeswoman Tara Dunlop says.

The deputy, who had worked at the jail for three-and-a-half years, did not know the inmate before his incarceration, Dunlop says. But in a town as connected as Richmond, she says, you never know what kind of relationships might exist between deputies and inmates: "Their neighbor may be here, their pastor, or whatever."

For that reason, Sheriff Woody is mulling a new policy requiring deputies to inform their supervisors if they personally know an inmate staying on the tier to which they're assigned.

Inmates spend days "trying to think of ways the rules can be bent in their favor," Dunlop says, and jail staff need to be reminded that favors are forbidden. "The deputies have a huge responsibility," Dunlop says, "and we have to have a certain level of trust."

Dunlop says being forthright in reporting jail incidents is a priority for Woody, who's eight months into his office. Recently Dunlop issued press releases about the fired female deputy; about an inmate escaping from the courthouse July 19 and about the June 23 discovery of a cache of prescription drugs, confidential inmate medical records and syringes in a rolling cart at a city surplus warehouse. That find also included a never-cashed check to an inmate for $351, dated Feb. 1, 2003, which predates Woody.

Dunlop says people have commented that they're glad the sheriff shares both good and bad news "in a classy way."

Dunlop says another vestige of the previous jail administration has also been wiped clean. Soon after Woody took office, he had former Sheriff Michelle Mitchell's name removed from all official sheriff's office vehicles, at a cost of about $50 per car.

"I want to just emphasize that his name is not on them," Dunlop says. S

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