Pointe Coupee jail guard arrested for malfeasance after internal investigations led to five guards being terminated or resigning _lowres

Darnell VanBuren

The Pointe Coupee Parish Detention Center on Monday became the latest correctional facility to be rocked by controversy when two guards were fired and three others resigned after allegations surfaced about inappropriate dealings with inmates.

The employees were accused of smuggling drugs and cellphones into the facility for inmates, Sheriff Bud Torres said.

The allegations first came to light through tips the Sheriff’s Office received April 26, sparking two separate investigations, Torres said.

“It is a constant battle with cellphones and contraband inside our facility,” Torres told reporters during a news conference Monday. “I think people today don’t take their job serious and don’t understand that when you become an employee of the Sheriff’s Office you take an oath. You’re held to a higher standard.”

Darnell VanBuren, one of the guards who was fired, was arrested and booked into the parish jail on a count of malfeasance in office for improper conduct with a female inmate, which involved sexually-charged messages on Facebook, telephone conversations and emails — most of which transpired on a cellphone that was smuggled into the facility for the offender.

Torres said his office found no evidence that VanBuren and the inmate had any physical contact with one another.

VanBuren has worked at the Detention Center since March 2014.

Capt. Steve Juge, the jail’s warden, said a female guard was also fired because of a friendship she maintained with an inmate, which is also a violation of the jail’s policy. The guard knew the inmate had drugs in his possession and never confiscated them, Juge said.

The three resignations were also tied to allegations of misconduct with inmates and smuggling contraband, Torres said.

Torres did not release the names of the other guards involved in the investigation and no other arrests have been made.

The sheriff said the District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the matter and additional criminal charges may be forthcoming.

“After we interviewed the inmates during the investigation, they were sent to another facility so they wouldn’t be in harm’s way,” the sheriff said. “The involved deputies were placed on administrative leave and not allowed back into the facility once we had knowledge of what was going on.”

The alleged misconduct at the Pointe Coupee jail marks the third time in a two-week time period that prison or jail guards were accused of misconduct in the Baton Rouge area.

On April 19, Jessica Dedon, 29, of Denham Springs, who was training to be a correctional officer at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center was arrested on allegations she smuggled alcohol, cellphones and tobacco into the prison. Two days later, Tierra Lewis, 26, of Port Allen, also training to be a correctional officer at the facility, was arrested after she was accused of smuggling drugs into Hunt.

“I talked to my counterparts across the state. It’s just a constant battle,” Torres said. “It’s a challenge for us to find good people with budget cuts and funding being a problem. The pay is not really high for these people. There are a lot of factors bearing on the problem.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.