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Oakhill prison officer charged with sexual assault, smuggling contraband for sale by inmate
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Oakhill prison officer charged with sexual assault, smuggling contraband for sale by inmate

OAKHILL

Oakhill Correctional Institution in Fitchburg.

A correctional officer at a state prison in Fitchburg was charged Thursday with smuggling contraband into prison for sale and with sexual assault for an alleged relationship with her inmate business partner, court records state.

A criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court alleges Mariah S. Krienke, 36, of Janesville, brought cellphones, chewing tobacco, food and nutritional supplements into Oakhill Correctional Institution to be sold for her by an inmate, with Krienke and the inmate splitting the proceeds.

"I believe that progressive, 21st century police departments should have body-worn cameras," Chief Shon Barnes tells our podcasters just a few weeks into his new job as Madison's top cop. Madison is one of the few cities of its size without cameras on patrol officers and one of only a third of police agencies in Wisconsin that haven't embraced the technology. Uniform cameras provide transparency and accountability following controversial police encounters, which helps builds public trust. Yet Barnes stresses that whether to equip his officers with the devices is the community's decision, not his. "It's important to note that body-worn cameras have evolved tremendously from cameras that automatically turn on when your blue lights turn on, automatically turn on when your gun is unholstered, and there are cameras now that are attached to a fit bit," he says. "So you wear the fit bit so that the program knows what your resting and normal heart rate is, and if your heart rate is elevated, it turns your body-worn camera on." Milfred and Hands praise Barnes for his emphasis on technology, including better use of data. Barnes also talks about waiters and waitresses making good police recruits, and his desire to expand recruitment efforts into churches and other places to help diversify the force.

The scheme, which several inmates interviewed by police said they were aware of, was discovered by Oakhill officials after they received an anonymous tip that an inmate had a cellphone, which is prohibited at the minimum-security prison.

Oakhill staff found the inmate with the phone on Jan. 6, and after getting the password for the phone, officials found it contained text conversations between the inmate and Krienke apparently about smuggling contraband, along with nude photos of her, the complaint states.

Krienke, who is charged with second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff and delivering illegal items to an inmate, is scheduled to appear in court on March 1. Court records do not indicate the name of an attorney for Krienke.

Sexual contact between inmates and prison staff members is prohibited by state law because of the unequal power dynamic between inmates and staff, and the possibility that staff could use their power to leverage sex from inmates.

State Department of Corrections spokesperson John Beard said Krienke resigned earlier this month during DOC’s internal investigation.

This is the second recent criminal case alleging a correctional officer brought contraband into Oakhill. In August, then-Correctional Sgt. Adam J. Green, 43, of Madison, was charged with helping an inmate get illegal items, such as marijuana, chewing tobacco and a cellphone, from the inmate’s cousin outside the prison. The case is pending.

According to the complaint:

A cellmate of Krienke’s alleged partner told Fitchburg police, who investigated the case, that Krienke oversaw the kitchen at Oakhill, and that his cellmate worked in the kitchen with Krienke.

One day he saw his cellmate with a cellphone and said his cellmate told him he’s “got a C.O.” The man said he was told Krienke would bring in items such as cellphones and give them to his cellmate who would find other inmates to sell them to and split the profit with Krienke.

Krienke’s partner, interviewed by police, said phones cost inmates between $400 and $500 and inmates would need to have someone outside the prison send money to Krienke through Cash App, a mobile payment service.

He told police the sexual relationship with Krienke started with flirting but escalated. He said Krienke would call him back to the kitchen after everyone else had left so they could be alone there.

The contraband arrangement, he told police, started with Krienke bringing in items like food or creatine powder just for him, which they did not sell. But she was in debt, he said, and they began selling the things she brought into the prison.

Data extracted by police from the inmate’s phone showed calls and messages between the inmate and Krienke that began Dec. 19 and ended on Jan. 5. They included discussions about how many of certain items Krienke should bring in to sell, along with sexually suggestive conversations and nude and suggestive photos of Krienke.


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