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Former jail contractor gets probation for sex with inmates

A former manager for a jail contractor admitted to providing contraband and having sex with male inmates in a plea agreement Friday.

Buddy Gene Arnett, 46, of the 1100 block of Skeeters Lane, Central Point, was employed as a manager for Aramark, the food-service contractor at the Jackson County Jail. He admitted Friday to engaging in sex with inmates and supplying them with tobacco while working for Aramark between Oct. 31, 2014, and March 17 of this year. 

He was sentenced to three years' supervised probation, counseling to be determined by the probation office, and the judge ordered Arnett to have no contact with any inmate unless he himself is incarcerated.

According to Sgt. Josh Aldrich at the Jackson County Jail, Aramark managers work alongside and oversee a crew of inmates involved in meal preparation.

"The people who are making the meals are prisoners," Aldrich said. "The jail creates a lot of meals a day, close to a thousand."

Arnett's attorney, Donald Scales, asked for the court's leniency, citing his client's employment history and lack of previous criminal history.

Scales described Arnett as someone who was friendly to the inmates and was "naive" to the idea that inmates could be manipulative. Scales said Arnett was manipulated by the inmates for contraband, and the inmates approached Arnett for the sexual encounters. Scales said he wasn't excusing Arnett for his crimes, but told the court that Arnett didn't seek to take advantage of inmates while working at the jail.

"This is not some guy preying on inmates," Scales told Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia.

Arnett pleaded guilty to one felony count of custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree, and one felony count of supplying contraband. 

Contractors are given security clearance after background checks, according to Aldrich, and contractors are briefed on ways they can get in trouble.

"Unfortunately sometimes they still make bad decisions," Aldrich said.

Prosecuting attorney Marco Boccato said he didn't have an opinion on whether Arnett was manipulated by inmates.

"His behavior was wrong, it was unacceptable, it was something we can't allow in our jails," Boccato said after the trial.

Boccato said sentencing considers the severity of the crime and criminal history. Although Arnett's crimes were serious — considered a 7 on a scale of 11, he was sentenced to probation based on his lack of criminal history.

"Because of his lack of criminal history prison was not an appropriate resolution," Boccato said.

Security staff at the jail check the kitchen area regularly, Aldrich said.

"Our security staff does regular walkthroughs, but ultimately Aramark and their employees are the ones who run the normal operation," Aldrich said. 

A co-defendant in the case, William Tye Middlekauff, an inmate who remains lodged on charges of promoting prostitution and supplying contraband, has a plea change hearing scheduled for Monday morning.

Policies and procedures remained the same after the arrest, Aldrich said.

"It was more of a reminder," he said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4417 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com.