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franklin county times

Jailer fired, accused of sex with prisoner

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
May 25, 2001
A correctional officer at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility was arrested and fired Friday for allegedly having sex with an inmate.
Sgt. Ralph Campbell, 43, of 5971 County Road 650 in Quitman, was arrested at 2 p.m. following an investigation that began Wednesday.
Investigators began interviewing inmates and correctional officers after hearing "information circulated by the inmates," Sollie said.
There appears to have been only one incident between Campbell and the female inmate, which occurred in April, Sollie said, and the "sexual contact was agreeable" to both.
Other jail employees might have heard rumors, but Sollie said there is "no indication they had first-hand knowledge."
The inmate has been transferred to the East Mississippi Correctional Facility but not because of the incident. She was one of several inmates scheduled for transfer at the request of prison officials there.
Sollie said Campbell began work at the jail as a correctional officer in March 1999 and worked his way up to sergeant. He was the supervisor in charge of the 4 p.m.-midnight shift.
Campbell is the second correctional officer arrested for having sex with an inmate since the jail opened in July 1998. Maj. Ward Calhoun of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department said Jeff Dollar was arrested in the spring 1999 for the same offense. Sollie said he was later convicted of the crime.
The charge against Campbell, "sexual penetration of an incarcerated offender by a law enforcement officer or employee," is a felony. If indicted and found guilty, Campbell could face a prison sentence of five years and a fine of $5,000 or both.
Sollie said he conferred with District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell before the arrest. Campbell was to be released on a $2,500 bond Friday afternoon. His case is scheduled to be heard by a Lauderdale County grand jury in July.
The investigation was led by Maj. Steven Spears, commander of the East Mississippi Drug Task Force, and Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department Investigator Jim Stephens, who specializes in sex crime investigations.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.