Sheriff’s office ‘extremely concerned,’ reviewing protocol in wake of reported sex acts between deputy and inmate
photo by: Mike Yoder
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says it’s reviewing protocol after the apparent finagling of work-release privileges enabled a deputy’s sexual encounters with a female inmate.
“The Sheriff’s Office is extremely concerned about the allegations,” office spokeswoman Sgt. Kristen Channel said in a written response to questions from the Journal-World. “The Sheriff’s Office expects nothing but the best from its employees because that’s what the public deserves. The agency will be reviewing its policies and procedures to ensure effective and efficient public safety services are provided to the citizens of Douglas County.”
Channel also explained how the Douglas County Jail’s work-release program is supposed to work — which, according to accusations against the deputy, is not what happened in this case.
Former deputy Mario J. Godinez, 47, of Lawrence, is charged in Douglas County District Court with unlawful sexual relations, for allegedly engaging in consensual sexual activity with a female inmate on Jan. 12 of this year.
Details about what happened emerged publicly earlier this month when, in response to the Journal-World’s request, the court released an affidavit prepared by the outside law enforcement agency that investigated the case.
The document revealed that beyond being assigned to the jail as a deputy, Godinez specifically was in charge of the work-release program. The affidavit revealed that the woman met with Godinez in his office and was temporarily released from the jail under the guise of the program, even though she was never granted work-release privileges by a judge.
Come-ons — each said the other instigated them — preceded sex acts in the office, then a plan to meet up outside the jail for more, according to the affidavit. The deputy and inmate told investigators that she was fitted with an ankle bracelet and rode a city bus from jail to a convenience store, where Godinez picked her up in his personal vehicle. More sex acts occurred in the car, while driving and while parked at the fairgrounds.
photo by: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
The two reportedly also exchanged romantic texts, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit does not name who outfitted the woman with the ankle bracelet or who approved her release from the jail.
Citing Godinez’s pending court case, Channel did not answer that specific question, either.
Channel did answer that no other sheriff’s employees were disciplined or placed on leave in relation to the incident.
Work-release numbers vary, but there are usually between 12 and 20 participants per day, Channel said. Describing the program generally, she said:
• Work release is only for inmates serving sentences, not those awaiting trial.
• The program allows inmates to temporarily leave jail to work at a job they had previously or to seek employment. Job seekers are allowed four weeks to find something and are pulled from the program “for a period of time” if they don’t.
“It is rare for someone not to find employment in that time frame,” Channel said.
• The sheriff’s office gives inmates city bus passes to get to their jobs or interviews. Or, inmates may get a ride with someone previously approved by the sheriff’s office.
• No inmates are allowed cellphones in the jail. Work release participants can use their personal cellphones — or, if they don’t have one, are provided one until they earn their first paycheck — when they leave for work but must check phones back in upon their return to jail.
• Work-release participants wear GPS ankle monitors. They are required to call the sheriff’s office upon arrival at their job or interview site and again before they leave to return to the jail. The sheriff’s office also randomly shows up to confirm inmates are where they should be.
• To participate in the work-release program, inmates must first get approval and a court order from a judge. The sheriff’s office then has discretion to decide whether the inmate participates.
“Reasons a person would not be able to participate in work release most often is based on past history, meaning poor performance or behavior while previously on the work release program,” Channel said. “Only a very few people have been ineligible for work release due to those reasons.”
• Within the sheriff’s office, more than one person is responsible for overseeing the work-release program. Inmates who have been approved by a judge are released by a corrections officer or deputy assigned to the work-release pod, for male inmates, or booking, where female inmates are released.
There is a work-release program deputy responsible for overseeing participants. “That deputy makes sure work release participants are abiding by the rules and regulations of the program, including making sure they are showing up to their place of employment,” Channel said.
A lieutenant in the work-release program also oversees the efforts and participants and assists the deputy. Finally, a captain oversees the work-release lieutenant, deputy and program.
According to the Journal-World’s review of the woman’s case files, she was in jail serving consecutive sentences for a municipal case and two district court cases when the sex acts occurred. A district court judge approved the woman, now 30, for the jail’s in-house inmate worker program but not the work-release or work-search programs.
Godinez was placed on administrative leave when the sheriff’s office became aware of the allegations and began investigating, the sheriff’s office has said. He resigned in April — the same day he was interviewed by investigators from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office — before criminal charges against him were filed.
Godinez had been with the sheriff’s office for 18 years. According to Channel, he was hired as a corrections officer in June 2000 and commissioned as a deputy in December of the same year.