Investigation Finds Buchanan County Jailer Released Inmates Early

The Buchanan County Jail in Independence has been the subject of a special investigation by the State Auditor’s Office.

An investigation has found about 250 instances in which time served by inmates did not match their sentence – or there were no records to back up their release date.

The Buchanan County Jail Administrator and another deputy were placed on leave in May of last year and resigned the following month. It happened after an inmate was spotted out in the community and taken back into custody – he told investigators he’d been released to get dental care on his own and was to return to jail under a gentleman’s agreement.

The investigation by the State Auditor’s Office reviewed jail records over a 25-month period. It found one person was released 53 days before their sentence was up. There were also more than 200 instances when jail time served either wasn’t recorded or was a couple of days shorter than the sentence. Eight people were released at least a week early. And there were another 40 instances in which an inmate was kept in jail past their sentence.

Auditors determined former Jail Administrator Russell West had improperly released inmates without a court order. West told an agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation that some inmates were released a day or two early due to the pandemic. In one instance, the jail administrator said he’d released an individual early as a reward for helping with a problem inmate.

Former Buchanan County Deputy Tammy Steenhock had been in charge of billing inmates for room and board. Auditors say those billing and payment records were incomplete.

Both Steenhock and West have worked for Buchanan County for over twenty years.

The report from the State Auditor’s Office has been turned over to state and Buchanan County officials.

 

story courtesy of Radio Iowa

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