Prison Guard Dismissed For Intimate Relationship With Inmate

, Prison Guard Dismissed For Intimate Relationship With Inmate

Prison Guard Dismissed For Intimate Relationship With Inmate

Prison guards of Corrective Services NSW have a duty to supervise inmates being held in Correctional Facilities in NSW such as prisons and court cells. As described on their website, they are responsible for a wide range of duties relating to the safety, security and welfare of prisoners in their care. They manage day-to-day issues and contribute to ongoing rehabilitation.

As a result of this duty being breached by prison guards a new offence has been introduced by the NSW Government last December. The offence relates to engaging in a relationship with an inmate causing a safety risk to a correctional centre.

THE STORY

It was recently reported that bikini model and prison guard Tara Brooks had become the girlfriend behind bars to a drug dealer inmate in a liaison that was headed for a full-blown sexual relationship, a Court has heard.

The former pole dancer and aspiring actress, who wept as she pleaded guilty in Court, had pursued a “romantic relationship” with convicted drug offender Hassan Zreika, Blacktown Local Court was told. Documents seen by news.com.au say that “in late January or early February Zreika asked her to be his girlfriend and she accepted”.

A mental health assessment of the 34-year-old found she felt “incomplete, unfulfilled and inadequate” which may have led “to a romanticised view” of her and the drug dealer. Police prosecutor Sergeant Mobit Kumar said Brooks had criminally acted with the prisoner to hide that he had obtained a mobile phone — which was illegal prison contraband. Zreika made “multipe phone calls … over several weeks” to Brooks and she failed to report she knew he was doing so on the banned phone. Addressing the Court, where Brooks sat looking strained and clasping her hands tightly in her lap, Sergeant Kumar said her actions were the sort that caused “public outrage”.

Magistrate Leanne Robinson rejected her mental health plea and recorded a conviction.

Sergeant Kumar said while Brooks’ relationship with drug dealer Hassan Zreika “wasn’t a full blown intimate relationship as to physical activity, it was an intimate relationship”. “An intimate relationship can be a precursor to sexual conduct including physical expressions of affection or an exchange of written and other communications,” he told Ms Robinson. “The facts do suggest she tried to develop these feelings.”

Hassan Zreika was incarcerated there and worked as a prison “sweeper”, a privileged position cleaning, distributing meals, clothing and linen to other inmates which gave him greater access to the jail and contact with officers.

“They had daily contact with each other where they began to get to know each other,” the facts state.

Between last December and January this year, “the relationship progressed into a relationship that transgressed the professional inmate/correctional officer boundary”.

A search in January uncovered a mobile phone and SIM card, and a search of Zreika’s cell on February 12 found letters and a Valentine’s Day card written by Brooks “that … disclosed clear romantic involvement between the pair”. The Corrective Services NSW Investigations Unit went to her home where she was arrested the day before Valentine’s Day this year. In a recorded police interview, Brooks “made full and frank admissions to writing and receiving letters and pursuing a romantic relationship with Zreika”.

Brooks was charged with a new offence, introduced by the NSW Government last December, of engage in relationship with inmate cause safety risk to correctional centre.

She also admitted she knew it was illegal for Zreika to possess a mobile phone in prison, and that she hadn’t reported it due to her “compromised integrity”. She revealed that she had accepted his request to become “his girlfriend”. She told police she was aware she had “crossed the line”.

Quoting at length from the parliamentary Hansard report of the legislation, Sergeant Kumar said “public outrage” had led to its introduction and that the community expected professionalism and high standards from prison officers.

He said actions such as hers “cause significant distress to victims of offenders and undermine public confidence in the the administration of justice”.

Defence lawyers for Brooks argued she had underlying mental health issues such as “adjustment disorder, depressive disorder and ADHD”. They also said she had suffered because of media exposure and public humiliation. Ms Robinson said the mental health conditions did “not diminish the moral culpability of the offender” and sentenced her to a two-year conditional release order.

Brooks was sentenced under new legislation in NSW and lost her job as a corrections officer.

She must be of good behaviour for the next two years and continue counselling.

THE LAW

Section 236Q of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 states that:

  1. A correctional employee (other than an employee referred to in subsection (2)) is guilty of an offence if the correctional employee engages in sexual conduct or an intimate relationship with an inmate or a person who is subject to a community-based order and the conduct or relationship–
    • causes a risk or potential risk to the safety or security of a correctional centre or correctional complex or to good order and discipline within a correctional centre or correctional complex, or
    • compromises the proper administration of a sentence or a community-based order.
  2. It is not an offence under this section if a correctional employee did not know, while the employee engaged in sexual conduct or an intimate relationship with an inmate or person subject to a community-based order, that the other person was an inmate or subject to the order.

MAXIMUM PENALTY

The maximum penalty for this offence is 20 penalty units, or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.

CONDITIONAL RELEASE ORDER

Conditional Release Orders (CROs) were introduced on 24 September 2018 to replace ‘section 10 good behaviour bonds’ which are currently contained in section 10(1)(b)of the Crimes Sentencing Act 1999 (NSW).

The new CRO does not replace section 10(1)(a). It only replaces Section 10(1)(b) by virtue of s9 of the new act. Significantly, the current section 10(1)(a) – which allows for the dismissal of charges without a conviction or bond – will remain in place.

Section 9 of the now amended Sentencing Act will set out the requirements for CROs.

Suffice to say the forthcoming section 9(1)(b) will still allow those who plead guilty or are found guilty of a criminal offence to avoid a conviction by entering into a good behaviour bond. Moreover, although the requirements for CROs are outlined in the new section 9, the order will still be made under section 10(1)(b) – as is made clear in the new section 9(1)(b) which refers to the court “making an order under section 10(1)(b)).

The new section 95(2) will set the maximum term for a CRO at two years, which is the same as the maximum duration of existing ‘section 10 bonds’.

However, Section 99(2) will enable courts to require defendants:

  • To participate in rehabilitation programs or receive treatments,
  • Abstain from alcohol, drugs or both,
  • Not associate with particular persons,
  • Not frequent or visit particular places,
  • Come under the supervision of community corrections officers or, in the case of young persons, juvenile justice officers.

To read more about CRO’s, click on this link.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with this offence, call National Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation!

Book your first free appointment with National Criminal lawyers now.
CONTACT US! 02 9893 1889

Book Appointment

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • :