Fairfax prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said yesterday he is investigating allegations that county sheriff's department employes and others regularly allowed jail inmates conjugal visits when they should have been in jail and made prisoners do outside work for them.
Horan also confirmed other statements made to The Washinton Post by former deputy sheriffs that inmates have been used to prepare food for the sheriffs annual employees picnic and that food bought for the inmates has been taken from the jail for the employees' personal consumption.
Horan said a "small number" of deputy sheriffs are responsible for the alleged abuses. He said that the transportation of inmates to the homes of deputies and at least one lawyer in the county "goes on all the time, (like) a revolving door" in and out of the county jail.
Fairfax County Sheriff James D. Swinson attended an hour-long meeting with Horan yesterday and the two police investigators working on the case. He left grim-faced.
Swinson said Horan "is doing his job and I am right with him on it." Swinson said he would not comment further on his meeting with Horan.
Earlier yesterday, Swinson said, "I seriously doubt" that food was taken from the jail. But he said that he doesn't know about the use of inmates outside the jail.
"I don't do the day-to-day operations of the jail," Swinson said.
"Let's get on with the investigation. Let's find out," Swinson said. "If there's corrective action to take at that time I'll take it. But let's dispel the rumors."
Horan said the two county policemen have questioning jail employees and inmates, "those who are in the position to know something with substance." He said he hopes to complete the investigation by next week. Horan said he does not know yet whether a special grand jury will be convened to hear the allegations.
Two former county deputy sheriffs told the Post last week that the jail system is based on a favoritism system. Inmates who are well liked by deputies and can be helpful doing work around the jail are kept there rather than sent to the state penal system to serve their sentences.
"Some (inmates) we keep because we need a certain amount of work done," Swinson said. "We always need a certain number of trusties." Trusties are inmates who are put in positions of leadership in the jail.
The former deputies said the trusties that were well liked were allowed to visit their girl friends or families when they were supposed to be in jail.
During the visits, deputies frequently bought the inmates beer, the former deputies said. "I know because I've done it myself," one of the deputies, Steven Bodholdt, said.
While the inmates are visiting their girl friends or friends, the deputies wait outside, the former deputies said. But on one occasion a deputy fell asleep and a trustie escaped, stole a car and drove to North Carolina where he was later recapture, the former deputies said. No charges were ever pressed against the inmate for escaping, they said.
Horan said he had not heard about the escape allegation.
But the prosecutor has heard allegations that food was prepared by inmates for the sheriff's annual picnics for employes and their families. Horan said he also heard allegations that food was removed numerous times from the jail by employes.
Horan declined to specify what [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] jobs the inmates did at employes homes. But one of the former deputies, who declined to be identified said the inmates often painted, showed lawns and fixed broken furniture.
A former prisoner in the jail told The Post that deputies regularly took meat, such as hams, from the jail.
The sheriff's department investigation began earlier this month when Fairfax County Circuit Judge Richard J. Jamborsky inquired us to why an inmate convicted of manslaughter, Ronald Lawhorne, had not been sent to a state prison after a year in the county jail. Jamborsky also heard that several deputy sheriffs who had highly recommended that Lawhorne's sentence be reduced, made the recommendation for resource other than Lawhorne's good behaviour in jail.
At subsequent court hearings, Lawhorne testified that he had helped build a shed at Swinson's new house in Great Falls. Chief jailer, John O. Feehan at first testified that [WORD ILLEGIBLE] prisoners worked on the shed. But later he recanted and admitted that he had taken Lawhorne and another prisoner to pour cement for two hours at Swinson's house without the sheriff's knowledge. Feehan pleaded guilty this week to using a prisoner to do outside work and was fined [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
The former deputies also said a joke floating around the jail was that deputies took a man regularly convicted of public drunkenness to the home of former Fairfax City Judge Quin S. Elson to cut the weeds around his rosebushes. But instead of cutting the weeds, the man cut off all the judge's rose blossoms, the former deputies said.