Fired booking officer says she lacked training

File photo A booking officer fired from the Curry County jail Monday for mistakenly releasing an inmate says she lacked training and support that might have prevented the mistake.

Sharna Johnson

A booking officer fired from the Curry County jail Monday for mistakenly releasing an inmate says she lacked training and support that might have prevented the mistake.

Johnny Cordova, 45, was released by mistake July 21 but law enforcement didn’t learn of the mistake for five days.

Cordova was recaptured Tuesday without incident.

When Cordova returned from an arraignment hearing with a judge’s order for $1,000 bond July 21, Teresa Braun said she looked through his file, which she said was “in complete disarray.”

She said the paperwork had handwritten notes made with arrows pointing to different dates and was confusing. Based on her calculations, Braun said it appeared he had satisfied his sentence so when he posted bond, she released him.

“I understand that I did wrong by releasing this man, it wasn’t entirely my fault, (but) yes I made the mistake; I released him,” she said.

“I’m supposed to understand what all these arrows mean? … I just assumed that the rest of his file was all in line.”

Braun said in the almost one year she worked at the jail, she asked for more training in interpreting court and legal documents but never got it.

Administrator Keith Norwood said Braun never came to him for training and if she had, he would have made sure she got it.

“Why should we hinder the growth of an employee by not allowing them to be trained?” he said. “She didn’t approach me about it and if she (had), she would have received it.”

Norwood, who took over command of the facility the second week in June, said booking officers receive initial training and are then assigned to work with a more experienced officer.

After that, “If they desire and they request they need more training we will provide it,” he said.

Braun said a computer system purchased by the county to manage inmate records is not functioning the way it was expected to and has made things more difficult.

Inmate data isn’t saved when staff go back into the system to check for it, photos are too small to see inmates clearly, information prints in a confusing way and the data regarding charges and release dates isn’t there, she said.

“You still have to pull a file and you still have to go through it,” she said.

“A lot of us are complaining the program is no good.”

Braun, who said she worked 15 years with the U.S. Postal Service before taking the job at the jail, said she was reprimanded after the incident occurred but wasn’t fired until five days later.

Around 5 p.m. Monday, she said she was called in and dismissed by Norwood.

Norwood said he made the decision to fire Braun. “She was fired for not doing her job,” he said.

There are glitches in the new jail management software system, but Norwood said that is no excuse.

“It’s not the computer program. Even if there are some glitches in the computer system, that person is still responsible for looking through the files,” he said. “In this case she failed to do so.”

“The booking officers have to truly be attentive to the release of any inmates. We just can’t rely on the computer to give us information that we need and if there’s any questions or any doubt in their minds about this fellow’s release, they should call a supervisor.”

Braun said there was no one to double check the paperwork for her because she was the only booking officer on shift and there were only five other detention officers, who were working posts in the facility.

Norwood said he went through Cordova’s file and, “There was documentation that the fellow had warrants that needed to be addressed,” he said. “The documentation was there.”

The computer system, which Norwood said staff were trained on in early June, doesn’t do everything the jail needs it to do and data needs to be input into the system, he said.

“No computer program will tell you everything,” he said.