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The two women also encouraged inmates to use mobile phones
Two prison officers from HMP Hewell in Redditch were today (Friday, 20 July) jailed for misconduct in a public office after a court heard that they had inappropriate relationships with serving prisoners.
The prisoners had also been encouraged by them to use mobile phones, which is prohibited at the jail.
Jodie Pugh, aged 30 of Tipton, and Danielle Ofkants, aged 25 of Oakenshaw, Redditch, appeared before Judge Juckes for sentencing at Worcester Crown Court having both previously admitted wilful misconduct in a public office. The offences took place between November, 2010, and September last year (2011).
Pugh was sent to jail for two and a half years and Ofkants was given a 12 month term.
Detective Inspector Gerry Smith of West Mercia Police said that an investigation began after the prison authorities reported their suspicions about the officers' conduct.
Inquiries over an 18-month period involving detectives from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit established that Pugh were having inappropriate relationships with one or more serving prisoners.
She had made unauthorised visits to prisoners, using a false name on one occasion to see one of them at a jail in Scotland.
Pugh had also had unauthorised telephone conversations with prisoners, supplying one with a mobile phone and also providing top-up vouchers.
Ofkants had also had unauthorised meetings and telephone conversations with serving prisoners and in doing so had encouraged the use of illicitly held mobile phones. On one occasion both Pugh and Ofkants had visited Star City in Birmingham with a prisoner and Pugh had a meal out with the same inmate at a Broad Street restaurant in the city.
Following sentencing Det Insp Gerry Smith said: "The prison authorities had their suspicions about the officers' conduct before they called us in and they worked very closely with us during what was a very full and thorough investigation.
"The corrupt activities Pugh and Ofkants were engaged in amounted to a serious abuse of the public's trust and it also posed a significant threat to prison discipline.
"People in positions of trust who contemplate such behaviour can expect the courts to come down on them hard.
"Cases like this are rare but we hope the outcome reassures people that we will use all the resources at our disposal to investigate this kind of misconduct and will also serve to discourage anyone else from committing similar crimes within the Prison Service or in similar positions of authority."
Stephanie Roberts-Bibby, Governor of HMP Hewell, said: "We remain committed to identifying and eradicating all forms of staff wrongdoing. Where staff develop an inappropriate relationship with a prisoner they put themselves and their colleagues at risk, potentially undermining the safety of the prison.
"The sentence received by Pugh and Ofkants reflects the seriousness of the offence. Staff should be commended for their perseverance and dedication in this case. Excellent working relationships with the police and the CPS enabled this prosecution to go ahead."