Inappropriate talk gets jailer 3 years

A judge imposed a three-year prison sentence Tuesday on a former deputy jailer who exchanged lurid and suggestive banter with an inmate.

 

"You should be absolutely ashamed," Judge Duncan D. Wheale said to Joseph K. Smalls.

Mr. Smalls, 44, who pleaded guilty, had worked as a Richmond County sheriff's deputy for only a few months when a conversation between him and a 27-year- old inmate was secretly recorded.

The inmate complained in February about Mr. Smalls' inappropriate behavior.

Mr. Smalls admitted he was wrong but said he didn't mean to harm anyone.

Assistant District Attorney Mukti Patel said a jailer could never have an equal relationship with an inmate because he is in complete control over inmates. She asked the judge for an order that would prohibit Mr. Smalls from ever being a law enforcement officer again.

By refusing to grant first offender status to Mr. Smalls, the judge ensured Mr. Smalls can never be certified as a police officer again.

Mr. Smalls said he had worked at the sheriff's office about six months. He had also worked for about a year with the state Department of Corrections, and for about four years in the juvenile justice system, he said.

"You abused your position of power, in my opinion, no differently than white police officers (who abused jailed black inmates) did 50 and 60 years ago," Judge Wheale said.

In addition to the prison term, Mr. Smalls will serve two years on probation.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.