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Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Work release employee accused of having sex with inmate

A Spokane work release employee has been fired and may face criminal charges after she was accused of having a sexual relationship with an inmate she was supervising.

Amber Sweet had been working at Brownstone Work Release for about a month when staff there discovered she might be having a sexual relationship with an inmate, according to court documents. Brownstone is a Department of Corrections facility run by Pioneer Human Services, a Seattle-based nonprofit, and located at 223 S. Browne St.

Supervisors at Brownstone first began investigating Sweet in early March after hearing reports of her alleged relationship with the inmate, court documents say. At the time, Sweet and the man both denied they had a relationship.

Later, staff found Sweet had shut down a monitoring program to view surveillance video on March 18, court documents say. That video appeared to show the inmate hiding an object in the couch, which Sweet later retrieved and placed in her bra.

Staff later found a cellphone on the premises that had photos of a woman who appeared to be Sweet taken in a Brownstone bathroom, court documents say. Staff also located a phone call between Sweet and the inmate where Sweet said she had been having sex with himand had tried unsuccessfully to break off the relationship, court documents say.

A spokeswoman at Pioneer said the company would not comment on the allegations because the investigation is ongoing. Attempts to reach Sweet were unsuccessful.

Brownstone staff contacted the Spokane Police Department to investigate a possible case of custodial sexual misconduct.

Detective Michael Schneider found a woman using the name “Shawna Smith” had sent messages to the inmate through JPay, an email-like system for prison inmates. The account was registered with Sweet’s home address and phone number, court documents say.

Sweet allegedly sent the inmate photos of herself from that account and explicit messages discussing sex, court documents say.

Schneider also found the inmate had called Sweet’s phone 89 times from Brownstone, court documents say. He contacted Sweet, who admitted she had had sex with the inmate multiple times at the dog park near High Bridge Park, court documents say.

Schneider forwarded charges against Sweet to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office on Monday, but she has not been charged with a crime, court documents show.

The inmate was sentenced to 22 months in prison in 2014 for unlawful possession of a firearm, court records show. He was 23 at the time of his sentencing.

He was sent back to Airway Heights prison after the investigation began, court documents say.

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