Phillips’ jail ride prompts questions
Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 12:00 am
Most convicts going from sentencing to Morgan County Jail are handcuffed, shackled and placed in the back of a deputy’s vehicle for the trip.
The former director of Carnegie Visual Arts Center apparently was not held to the common procedure after her plea agreement for six months in county jail and 14½ years of probation Monday for embezzling money from the Carnegie and the Alabama Museum Association.
Information received by The Daily indicated that handcuffs were removed from Laura Phillips and she rode to the jail in the passenger seat — up front with the reserve officer who drove her there.
Chief Deputy Mike Corley confirmed Thursday that Phillips, 53, was uncuffed, as per a deputy’s instruction. Corley said he could not confirm that Phillips received a front-seat ride, but he was concerned by the allegation and intends to review procedures with jail personnel.
“I talked with the officers, and that was the officer’s discretion,” Corley said of the decision to leave Phillips uncuffed.
“The deputy’s instruction to the reserve officer was that handcuffs were not necessary because she was no threat or danger to herself or anyone else.
“The deputy said he did not follow the reserve officer outside, so that was the action of the reserve officer if he chose to put her in the front seat,” Corley said. “I’m not saying he did anything wrong, but it causes me a little concern that anyone would ride up front for anything other than a courtesy ride. I plan to talk to him about that.”
Corley said he plans to discuss the matter with Capt. Ron Livingston to emphasize proper procedure for transporting inmates. Corley said the reserve officer, who was not working Thursday, does a good job and has volunteered hundreds of hours.
Morgan County Jail Warden Leon Bradley said Phillips did not receive special treatment before becoming a prisoner there. She did, however, get to visit with Bradley and ask him questions days ahead of her incarceration Monday.
Bradley said Phillips’ attorney arranged the visit.
“She knew she was coming to jail on Monday, so her attorney requested a visit for her ahead of time” Bradley said. “She came on May 2, but she did not tour the jail.
“She was brought directly to my office, escorted by a corrections officer. She asked questions about what was permitted and what was not permitted. She had questions about shoes, whether she could wear certain shoes for health reasons.”
Bradley said he explained housing to her and agreed to accommodate her health issues.
Phillips negotiated a 15-year split sentence and must serve six months in county jail. She was ordered to pay $140,636 in restitution to the Carnegie and the association.
Bradley said inmates are housed according to classification.
“We have a trusty dorm and an honor dorm,” Bradley said. “She is in the general population of the women’s pod with others who are convicted of felonies.”
Corley said Sheriff Ana Franklin has allowed others the opportunity to tour the jail.
“About a couple of weeks ago, a couple of concerned parents upset about their child coming to jail made a request to the sheriff, and she took them and showed them that the jail was in good living condition,” Corley said.
Franklin did not criticize the deputy’s decision to remove handcuffs from Phillips, but her preference is to handcuff all prisoners.
“I try to give my deputies some leeway, but for the most part, I like for inmates to be cuffed when transported,” Franklin said. “I can’t say that he was wrong about her not being a threat because nothing happened, but I’d rather