What it means to be a jail trustee

After a Miller County jailer was charged with having sex with an inmate, we have a FactFinder follow up. Miller County jailer James Gavett was arrested Sunday and charged with four felony counts of sexual contact with a prisoner, who was a trustee at the jail. KRCG's Mallory McGowin spoke with law enforcement officials throughout the Heart of Missouri Tuesday to find out just what it means to be a jail trustee.

Inmates volunteer for the position of jail trustee and must meet certain criteria.

"Non-violent charges, low bonds, can abide by the rules already set forth in the facility," says Boone County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jenny Atwell.

Trustees perform a number of duties, without pay. They mop floors, do the laundry, re-paint the walls when needed, take out the trash, and unload trucks. And there's a reson these inmates do all this work for no pay.

"There is the incentive that we are a non-smoking facility. They are allowed to go outside and smoke under officer supervision," says Lt. Atwell.

Possibly more appealing than smoking, trustees can ask the court to take their work into account to reduce their sentence.

In Boone County, Atwell makes it clear the trustees are supervised and watched just like any other inmate.

"They're under constant employee supervision, whether it be on camera or direct officer supervision," says Lt. Atwell.

I also spoke to Cole County Jail Superintendent Russ Bemboom. The trustee programs in Boone and Cole County have only small differences. Trustees are called "inmate workers" in Cole County and, because the Cole County jail is smaller, they have fewer trustees than Boone County. Also, Cole County does not allow females to serve as trustees. Bemboom told me that rule exists to try to eliminate the opportunity for a sexual relationship, like the one alledged in Miller County. Women are housed in a seperate section of the Boone County jail. Therefore, two women serve as trustees in that portion of the facility.

We also contacted Miller County Sheriff Bill Abbott to see if the jail trustee program in Miller County was similar to Boone and Cole County. Because of the ongoing investigation in the Gavett case, Abbott wouldn't comment. One other note, in Boone County, Lt. Atwell says all the work done by trustees saved taxpayers about $380,000 last year.