Former county correctional officer sentenced to jail
A former correctional officer at the Charles County Detention Center pled guilty on Wednesday for having sexual relations with an inmate while on duty, the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office announced.
Jason Paul Arnold, 27, of La Plata was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail, about 10 months after the internal investigation began.
Allegations against Arnold surfaced in July 2015, and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office says it took quick action once notified.
“Once we were made aware of the allegations, the correctional officer in this case was immediately removed from the workplace,” said CCSO spokeswoman Janelle Love after charges were filed.
Police also revealed that “the relationship briefly continued after she was released from the detention center,” according to a press release.
With Circuit Court Judge James West presiding at the plea hearing Wednesday, prosecutors told the court of the evidence brought against Arnold.
“In March of 2015, Arnold was escorting a female inmate to the vending area at the CCDC. He took the woman into a closet and the two engaged in sexual conduct, which included the woman performing [a sexual act] on Arnold,” states a press release. “Prior to this sexual encounter, Arnold had been exchanging notes of a sexual nature with the female inmate. According to the evidence described by the state, Arnold had at least one other sexual encounter with this same female inmate and also exchanged notes with other female inmates.”
The female inmate had been serving an 18-month jail term for theft under $1,000, police said.
In court, Assistant State’s Attorney Francis J. Granados asked West to go above sentencing guidelines given Arnold’s abuse of power.
“The sentencing guidelines are probation to probation, but this is not a guidelines case,” Granados said. “What type of message would it send to the community if an officer who abuses his power in this way is simply given probation, a slap on the wrist, and sent on his way? The State requests that the defendant have his rights and his liberties stripped away in the same way as the inmate’s whom he was entrusted to oversee. The defendant will be entrusted to a facility that will respect his rights and his dignity: something that he did not do for the victim in this case.”
West agreed, and handed down a 90 day jail sentence.
“I understand the guidelines are probation to probation, but that sentence doesn’t seem appropriate for the crime,” he told Arnold. “It is the expectation that people in a position of power are going to do the right thing and not prey on the vulnerable.”
“My thoughts are right in line with Judge West’s,” said State’s Attorney Tony Covington (D). “This individual was placed in a position of trust. He, like all guards, had enormous control and power over all the inmates he oversaw. To take advantage of someone like that is flat out wrong, can’t be tolerated and should be punished. Judge West appropriately did so.”