Who's Watching the Guards: Decatur County

By Kate Gaier
5:30 pm November 28, 2006

A detention officer is arrested for sexual assault on a person in custody, another fired for bringing outside contraband to inmates. Decatur County has seen its share of guards breaking the law. The sheriff and his staff say they are doing everything they can to keep a close eye on the guards.

Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin knows just like any other occupation there are some bad apples out there.

As sheriff he says the only way to weed them out is be alert and not turn his back when a guard breaks the law.

"Just because you got one bad apple in the bunch doesn't mean your whole department is corrupt. It's something you shouldn't have a closed mind to."

Sheriff Griffin says having an open mind and knowing it could happen at any time is half the battle. Another problem officials face at the Decatur County Jail is male and female guards interacting with the opposite sex.

"There's a human factor involved. You're not supposed to become friends. You're supposed to do your job and protect them and make sure they're secure in the jail," added the sheriff.

Jail Administrator Major Linn Harrell says, on average, he houses about 150 inmates and employs about 30 detention officers.

Though only about 20 percent of the inmates are female, when it comes to the staff, Harrell says it's pretty much fifty-fifty.

"The only thing a male should do or a female should do as far as touching a member of the opposite sex is a pat down type search, not anything else."

Harrell says rules are in place to protect guards and inmates, but at times the temptation is just too great.

Twenty-two-year-old Kendrick Bryant is a recent example of a guard gone bad. Bryant is charged with sexual assault on someone in custody. Not only did he lose his job, he broke an oath he swore to uphold, and he broke the law.

"I don't know if they'll ever learn, but we're going to always monitor and when they cross that line we're going to punish them severely," said Sheriff Griffin.

The sheriff says he has zero tolerance for guards breaking the law, but he knows it could happen again. Ex-guard Kendrick Bryant is expected to go in front of the grand jury sometime in the near future.