Mike Heine/The Week
(Published Sept. 10, 2007, 1:09 p.m.)
A Walworth County Huber Dorm inmate serving time for sexual assault of a child worked a day at the Walworth County Fair last week, a concerned mother told The Week.
"Do you know they let people from the Huber Dorm work at the fair no matter what they do?" the mother wrote in a letter. "My daughter was sexually assaulted when she was 11. Guess who she saw at the Walworth County Fair on Friday."
Her daughter, now 14, was scared when she called her mom to report she saw her assailant walking toward the midway, the mother said.
The Walworth County Jail has provided workers to the fair for three years and never had a problem, said Jim Henriott, community service and employment coordinator for the jail.
He was aware of this situation and said the 19-year-old inmate, serving 360 days for four misdemeanor sexual assault convictions, was confronted by fair security and agreed to leave and not come back.
"It didn't make sense to me," the woman said of her daughter's assaulter being at the fair. "They did get him out of there, but why would you even let him work there?"
The fair and the jail have no written agreement about what offenses are allowable, Henriott said. He expects to do background checks in the future.
"If they (the fair) request us to send people without violent crimes, we will honor their wishes," Henriott said.
He noted that inmates who receive a Huber sentence are deemed by a judge to be among society by gaining employment. If the judge does not restrict contact with children, the jail can't deny someone the ability to work for a place where children might be present, Henriott said.
The inmate had no such restrictions and worked at the fair for one day, Henriott said.
He was ordered not to contact his victims and was not stalking the girl, Henriott said. The mother agreed her daughter's sighting was happenstance.
The unemployed inmates are grateful for the chance to work at the fair, where they mostly pick up garbage, do maintenance or help with stage setup and teardown, Henriott said.
"It's a chance to get out and see people and be at the fair. In the three years we've done it, we've never had a complaint from maintenance that they were not doing what they were told," Henriott said. "I check on a daily basis and they never have problems."
Inmates are always supervised by fair staff and are usually not among the crowd, said Sue Preussing, the fair's marketing coordinator.
"They're all used in maintenance," she said. "They're not used where they have to interact with our fairgoers."
The mother didn't mind Huber inmates working at the fair, but said anyone with a sexual assault conviction, particularly against a child, shouldn't be at a place swarming with children.
"I don't know if they go through (rehabilitation) classes, but what's to say they won't do it again?" she said. "Anything to do with sexual assault, they should not be able to be with kids."
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