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Mississippi Sheriff Blames Court Bailiffs for Prisoner Pregnancy

"It did not happen in my courtroom and not under my watch," declared Mississippi Judge Winston Kidd, referring to a pregnancy resulting from a courthouse tryst between two detainees. "It is not my bailiff's practice to allow the female prisoners and the male prisoners to have contact with each other. It did not happen in my courtroom, or to any of the defendants assigned to this courtroom. I would have known by now."

On May 23, 2012, a Mississippi woman was confined in the Jackson Detention Center on theft and probation violation charges. Jackson houses only female detainees.

On October 30, 2012, the woman, who authorities refuse to identify, was transported to the Hinds County Circuit Court for a preliminary hearing. Eight male prisoners were also transported to Hinds County from the Raymond Detention Center.

Apparently, while awaiting their court appearance in a jury room, the woman and one of the male prisoners slipped into an adjacent bathroom for a romp in the hay, according to Hinds County Sheriff Tyrone Lewis. The encounter went undiscovered until the woman told jail staff that she was pregnant. A December 30, 2012 test confirmed the pregnancy at two months, according to Lewis.

"This sexual activity did not happen at the Jackson Detention Center," said Lewis. "It did not happen at the Raymond Detention Center. It did not happen at the Work Center. We are not responsible for the incident that took place."

Lewis blames the bailiffs who are assigned to the Court's four circuit court judges. Each judge — Winston Kidd, Jeff Weill, Tomie Green and Bill Gowan — oversees up to two bailiff who are responsible for transporting prisoners from jails to courts, guarding prisoners while at court and maintaining order in the courtrooms. "We just pay them," said Lewis. "They are not deputies. They are bailiffs."

The Sheriff's investigation revealed that the prisoners "were left unattended for an undetermined amount of time." Lewis offered to share his evidence and findings with the judges so "they can conduct their own investigation." Even so, he refused to publicly identify the responsible bailiffs or which judge employs them.

Judge Gowan joined Judge Kidd in narrowing the pool of likely suspects. "The only thing I can say is, 'No," said Gowan. "If it happened in my court, I'd be the first one to own up to it, and it didn't happen in my court." As proof, Gowan notes that detainees appearing before him wait in his courtroom, not the jury room. They are then escorted back to jail after their appearance, Gowan claimed. Judges Weill and Green declined to comment.

"I tried to get full authority over the bailiffs to make sure they had better training," said Lewis. "We wanted everyone on the same plan, and to level the playing field." The judges emphatically rejected his request.

"They've been my bailiffs for at least 11 years, and they are trained," said Kidd. Prisoner sex "is something I would not allow. My bailiffs are trained properly, and if I see something that they are doing improperly, then I advise them of how I would like it done."



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