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Prison sees rash of worker arrests

Alleged inmate dealings exposed at New Castle

– The warden of an eastern Indiana prison that’s seen a rash of employee arrests for trafficking with inmates or having sex with them says the allegations are “sad.”

In the past 10 months, six employees at the New Castle Correctional Facility have been charged with smuggling cellphones and/or other contraband to inmates, having sex with them, or both.

The Star Press in Muncie reported Tuesday that three of the cases involve women employed by private prison contractors who allegedly became romantically involved with male prisoners.

“It is always a sad occasion when it is detected (that) staff has committed such a moral or ethical offense,” Warden Keith Butts said in an email.

The most recent arrest of an employee at the prison, which is home to about 3,000 inmates, came Feb. 1, when 44-year-old Roberta Michelle Ashburn of New Castle was charged with trafficking with an inmate.

Court documents state that Ashburn was an employee of Aramark Food Services, a prison vendor, when she allegedly gave a cellphone and other items in early January to inmate Clinton J. LeMaine. The 37-year-old is imprisoned for armed robbery and burglary convictions in Wayne County.

Ashburn said the cellphone she gave LeMaine had been hidden in her bra when she entered the prison, court documents state.

The New Castle woman claimed her relationship with LeMaine was limited to “verbal flirting.”

Ashburn was released after posting bond. She appeared in Henry Circuit Court on Monday, and a judge set her trial for May 13.

Last week, a judge imposed a four-year suspended sentence on Joshua W. Cline, a 35-year-old Mooreland resident who acknowledged smuggling cellphones to inmates while working as a laundry supervisor at prison.

Cline told Henry Circuit Court Judge Edward Dunsmore he smuggled the phones for money.

“Money was tight,” he said. “I was offered money to bring in cellphones, and I accepted it.”

Dunsmore, who also placed Cline on four years of probation, said the case involved a “violation-of-trust issue.”

Butts, who became the prison’s warden in October, said exposure of the prison workers’ alleged misdeeds was the “direct result of my staff being extremely diligent and establishing such a vast network of gathering sound, credible information.”

He said his staff works close with Indiana State Police, other local law enforcement agencies and the Henry County prosecutor’s office.

“It’s simply one big team,” Butts said. “These people check the egos at the door and do what is right by our taxpayers.”