Pointe Coupee Parish prison employees fired or resigned amid investigations

Pointe Coupee Parish: Several prison employees fired or resigned
Sheriff Bud Torres (Source: WAFB)
Sheriff Bud Torres (Source: WAFB)

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Five employees at the Pointe Coupee Parish Prison were either fired or resigned before they could be fired.

Warden Steven Juge said detectives began an investigation on Tuesday, April 26 at the prison. By Friday, everything came to light. He said two employees were fired and three others resigned. Of those employees, a deputy and multiple ranked supervisors were involved.

During a press conference Monday, Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Bud Torres said a prison guard Darnell Vanburen, 27, allegedly had sexual communication with a female inmate. He claimed the alleged, inappropriate communication was over cell phones and included sexual texts and pictures. He noted, however, there was no physical contact between the two.

"When you become an employee of the Sheriff's Office, you take an oath. You're held to a higher standard," Torres said.

Juge said Vanburen, of New Roads, was fired, arrested and charged with malfeasance in office. He has posted a $10,000 bond, which was set by Judge James Best.

The inmate was transferred to a different facility because she was a Department of Corrections inmate.

A female employee was also fired because Juge said she was aware the inmate had a cell phone, but claimed the employee did nothing about it. Juge said employees are not allowed to have cell phones or access to social media during their shift inside the jail. It is not known how the devices got inside the prison.

"She also communicated with the offender, but there was no inappropriate communication, but allowed the inmate to have contraband in the prison and did nothing about it," said Juge.

A shift sergeant, who Juge said was not involved in the incident, resigned before he was fired.

"We felt he should have known about that," said Juge.

That case has been forwarded to the District Attorney's office. Two additional charges are being examined by the district attorney as well.

In a separate incident, a male employee was allegedly plotting with an inmate to smuggle contraband, like drugs and phones, inside the jail. He resigned before he was terminated.

A female officer also resigned after allegedly failing a polygraph test.

Names of the employees not facing charges were not released. Juge said while he is disappointed at the ex-employees that did not take the responsibilities behind the badge seriously, he praised the investigators and other officers who did their job to bring this incident to light.

"In the Department as a whole, I'm not disappointed. I'm disappointed in those I've entrusted to wear the badge and to do the job that we have to do," Torres said.

The sheriff said these cases are becoming common in prisons across Louisiana, because of budget problems and low pay for entry-level employees, they are more motivated to break the rules.

"It's just a constant battle - contraband, prohibitive items coming into the facilities. It's a challenge for us with budget cuts and funding being a problem, the pay is not really high for these people at the introductory level," Torres said.

Torres said Vanburen has been with the department for two years, and that he has no history of any incidents similar to this one.

There could be more arrests or firings as the investigation is ongoing.

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