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Washington Prison Employee Terminated for Allowing Prisoners to View Computer Screen

The State of Washington Personnel Appeals Board (PAB has held that termination is appropriate for a prison employee who released confidential prisoner information to prisoners.

Before the PAB became the appeal for Kathy Lorentzen, who was a state employee since 1984and began employment at the Airway heights Correctional Center in March 1995. Lorentzen was working in the Clothing Department issuing prisoners clothing upon arrival, completing laundry and lost clothing exchanges, and other duties related thereto.

In the Fall of 2001, prison officials investigated rumors that confidential information on sex offenders was being accessed by the Clothing Department and released by other prisoners. Lorentzen denied releasing such information, and the investigation was dropped.

From October 2001 to the Spring of 2002, prisoners continued to make claims someone was getting information from the Offender Based Tracking System. As usual, a confidential informant came forward and helped prison officials set up a sting-type operation.

First, a surveillance camera was set up to view the computer in the Clothing Department. Then, the prisoner informant gave the name of a prisoner supplied by the prison inspector to the clothing prisoner clerk. Lorentzen was viewed on camera with the clerk looking at the computer. Later, the information on the name supplied by the investigator was released by the clerk to the informant.

During the investigation, Lorentzen admitted to allowing the clerk to view her computer screen, but only to view the manifest of new arriving prisoners. She gave several contradictory statements during the investigation. Eventually, the clerk also informed that she was releasing confidential information to him.

The PAB found that termination was appropriate because of Lorentzen’s failure to answer all questions truthfully during the investigation and that allowing prisoners to view confidential information on her computer not only violated policy but could create a safety and security issue. See: Lorentzen v. Department of Corrections, PAB No:-Dism-02-0073 (2003). The PAB ruling is in the brief bank.

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Related legal case

Lorentzen v. Department of Corrections