SOME Tulsa corrections officers have criminal records

Sunday, May 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Some corrections officers working in the Tulsa jail have been on the other side of the bars.

Twenty of the 348 employees working for Corrections Corporation of America were arrested before they worked for the company. The Tulsa World compared a company employee list with computerized jail records dating back to 1996.

The majority of the arrests related to traffic offenses. But some employees have been arrested for burglary, pointing a deadly weapon, resisting an officer, harboring a fugitive from justice, growing marijuana, assault and battery, making obscene phone calls, shoplifting and obtaining merchandise by fraud.

Corrections Corporation says the number of those arrested is not alarming because most of the arrests were for traffic violations. Spokesman Marvin Branham says CCA does not hire convicted felons but takes a case-by-case approach about hiring those convicted of misdemeanors. Hiring is at the warden's discretion.

Applicants are not ignored simply because they have prior arrests, Branham said.

``Anyone can be accused of something,'' he said. ``Someone is always presumed innocent unless there appears to be evidence that the district attorney's office pursues the charges and gets a conviction.''

Tulsa County Commissioner Bob Dick said he is surprised by the number of jailers who've been arrested.

He said many people who are arrested make plea bargains and don't end up with convictions. He said it would be a great concern if jailers, regardless of whether they were convicted, had been arrested for theft or fraud.

``Corrections officers are in a position of trust,'' Dick said. ``They are expected to look out for inmates and their property.''

A February 2000 internal memo obtained by the Tulsa World says the Corrections Corporation was in violation of its contract with the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority because background checks had not been done on about 40 percent of its employees.