Changes urged in jail's cash-handling policy

October 16, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

After learning that a county corrections officer took a prisoner's money from a cash box at the county jail and returned it two weeks later, the county auditor has urged corrections officials to change the jail's system of keeping prisoners' money.

A county auditor's report on the the inmates' cash account, presented to County Council members Friday, showed that a corrections officer "was not following established policy and procedure" from Jan. 24 to Feb. 5 when he kept $150 that a prisoner's family had left at the jail.

Corrections officials investigated the incident when the prisoner said money was missing from his jail account, said County Corrections Director James N. Rollins.

"Basically, when we went to investigate and I questioned [the officer] about the lapse in time, he did not answer the question and chose to resign," said Mr. Rollins.

The director said he could not release the name of the officer because personnel records are confidential. He said no further action was taken against the staff member.

The report said officials also suspected the officer was "withholding cash received on weekends . . . from other accounts instead of placing them in the cash box as required."

But Mr. Rollins said the department's internal investigation did not support the suspicion of other unauthorized borrowing by the employee.

The jail's practice of keeping the weekend receipts -- usually in the $1,200 to $1,400 range -- stored in the cash box all weekend until the money was deposited at a local bank on Monday allowed the problem to occur, according to the report.

"He was putting the money back," said county Auditor Ronald S. Weinstein in his presentation to council members, "but this time, he didn't put it back soon enough."

After the department's internal audit, county administration officials asked the county auditor to review the inmate cash account.

An audit that began in March and was completed last month included surprise cash counts and sampling of cash receipts and payouts to inmates. It found that all cash could be accounted for and that department policy governing the account was followed, with few exceptions.

The audit report said, however, that with the expansion of the jail and its resulting increase in inmate population, more safeguards for the account will be needed.

One of the auditors' main recommendations -- using the bank's night depository at the end of weekend days rather than keeping the money all weekend to make a deposit -- already has been implemented, Mr. Rollins said.

Auditors also recommended that the account, which is now kept manually in a ledger, be computerized. That would cut record-keeping time, increase accuracy and aid in such tasks as reconciling bank statements and generating reports on the account, they said.

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