By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Last summer, Lee English, a captain at the DOC's Diagnostic Center, was arrested for allegedly engaging in sex with a 31-year-old female inmate. The woman reportedly told the police that English had reneged on promises to her. According to one DOC staffer, the inmate claims that English told her he'd help her get parole.
Several months earlier, another diagnostic-center staffer, 49-year-old Valgene Armstead, was accused of having sex with a female inmate in a utility closet. He, too, was charged criminally.
Other cases remain in limbo. DOC captain Stanley Powell, a fifteen-year veteran, was fired last year after claims surfaced that he'd propositioned a former inmate. Those allegations arose as part of an investigation into whether Powell had used his position to obtain sexual favors from six or seven other female inmates at the Colorado Women's Correctional Facility. The Fremont County District Attorney's office has not yet determined whether to file criminal charges against Powell.
In most fraternization cases that are uncovered, the person blowing the whistle is the inmate. That's what happened to a fifteen-year DOC veteran who recently was terminated after officials discovered his relationship with a female inmate. "The female he got involved with [figuratively] cut his throat," prison superintendent Parmenter says. "We had suspected they were involved, and when we questioned her [earlier], she denied it. But the minute she got in trouble and faced losing fifteen days of good time, she told the truth and she gave us the evidence. She was so madly in love with him that she preferred that he lose his fifteen-year career to her losing fifteen days of good time."
Bob Roybal, a representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has represented at least four officers who became involved with inmates. "Most of them," says Roybal, a former corrections officer himself, "had tremendous futures and halfway-decent marriages" when they became involved with an inmate. "Then everything kind of goes to hell in a hand basket. It's an error in judgment, but that type of error basically throws their career down the tubes, and everything goes with it."
Even if staffers wait for an inmate to be released from prison, DOC rules prevent them from starting up a relationship until the felon has been out for a minimum of two years. "Even when an inmate leaves," Cantwell says, "they have a lot of ties back to the facility. A lot of their friends are still in. I just got a call today from an inmate who's getting out soon. He's being pressured by other inmates to do things for them, and they told him a staff member to contact. If they know someone who has a direct link to a staffer, they'll prey on them."
That corrections officials have the right to get involved in employees' personal relationships--even those that may take place outside the workplace--has been affirmed by courts throughout the country. It was tested in Denver in 1983, after the firing of David Alan Goodwin, a Denver sheriff's deputy.
Goodwin had worked for the city for more than six years when he was fired for violating numerous departmental regulations, all of which had to do with his relationship with a former jail inmate named Kay Meyers. Goodwin, it was charged, had left his wife and moved into an East Colfax motel with Meyers. Although he was warned by his supervisor to discontinue the relationship and claimed that he had, within six days Goodwin was again living with Meyers.
Goodwin appealed his termination on the grounds that it violated his right to association, guaranteed to him by the Colorado constitution. His case eventually went to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which affirmed his termination and the decision of the lower courts.
The law's intrusion into people's private lives has always rankled Mary Jane Eaklor, particularly so in the case of relationships between staffers and inmates. "It was always a matter of double standards," she says. "It seemed all the hanky-panky that went on between the employees, married or unmarried, was all right, but if an unmarried woman employee found an unmarried prisoner attractive, that was a no-no."
When Eaklor divorced Robert Kautz in 1985, he was already living on the edge. He was drinking too much, for one thing. And on March 7, 1986, after being out of prison just over two years, Kautz was back in jail, this time charged with investigation of attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, committing a crime of violence and felony menacing. Sterling police officers said Kautz had attacked his girlfriend with a knife, then broke into her house to continue the attack when she fled.
Later that year, when Kautz was being transported to Fort Morgan for a hearing, he was charged with attempting to kill a police officer during what prosecutors described as an escape attempt. Kautz went back to prison to begin serving a 32-year sentence.
Soon after Kautz's return to Canon City, Eaklor again began visiting him. They married for the second time on December 7, 1988.
There were several reasons why she chose to remarry, Eaklor says. For one thing, Kautz had become a Seventh-Day Adventist, "and I think he's convinced that what the church teaches is the truth." She also believes that he will never again touch alcohol.