Florida

He’s locked up for sexually abusing a minor. A prison guard gave him images of a naked child

A Florida judge sentenced Dannie Holden to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing a minor under 12. While serving penance for his crime, Holden managed to woo a corrections officer and convince her to supply him a steady stream of explicit images of a female toddler, an internal investigation report says.

Mercedes Jenkins, a former guard at Cross City Correctional Institution in Dixie County, is one of two staffers arrested last week for communicating electronically with male inmates. She sent sexually explicit images and videos of the girl to Holden, 36, who was convicted of sexual battery on a child under 12 in 2011, according to the report.

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Mercedes Jenkins Dixie County Sheriff's Office

“The correspondence between the two parties was romantic in nature and included declarations of each other’s love,” the report says of the corrections officer and the convict. Indeed, the couple referred to each other as “husband, wife, king, queen, honey bun, honey bear and flower. “

The two are not, in fact, married, and there is no indication that they have ever met each other outside of the correctional facility.

Florida prisoners have not always had access — at least not legally — to electronic devices that can access email and a limited number of apps. But the Department of Corrections signed a contract with a private vendor, JPay, to provide such devices, in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.

The devices do not afford access to the broader Internet, including porn sites. They can be used for transferring money to an inmate.

JPay is responsible for monitoring and approving video messages, called “videograms,” and safeguards are in place to restrict forbidden content from being delivered to inmates, said Michelle Glady, the director of communications for Florida’s Department of Corrections.

“We are reviewing this incident in its entirety to determine what additional measures can be implemented to prevent certain inmates from receiving content not already explicitly restricted,” Glady said in an email.

Jenkins sent 126 images and nine video clips to Holden between October of 2018 and June of 2019. A child is depicted in 85 of those images and in all nine of the video clips, the report says.

In the videos, the child appears dressed up in costumes or wearing no clothing at all, according to the report. Another video from March depicts multiple children in bathing suits at a water park.

“The videograms sent in March 2019 seemed inappropriate and the child’s behavior appeared to be encouraged by Officer Jenkins,” the report says. According to the report, Jenkins was aware of Holden’s status as a registered sexual predator when she sent him the images.

Additionally, Jenkins, 28, transferred 23 cash deposits totaling $812 to Holden’s account, the internal investigation says. In total, Jenkins sent Holden 967 written messages. He responded to her 742 times.

The report says Jenkins communicated electronically with two other male inmates, one of whom is also a registered sex predator. It doesn’t appear as though she sent them sexually explicit messages, however.

“The actions of this former employee are inexcusable and violate our standards of conduct on every level,” Glady said in an email.

Jenkins turned herself in to the Dixie County Jail on Friday afternoon, according to Lt. Tim Roberts, who works at the jail. Jenkins is being held on $105,000 bail.

Jenkins was charged with introducing contraband onto the grounds of a state correctional institution. It is unclear why she wasn’t charged with child pornography or child abuse, or whether further charges are pending.

Jayme Calvert, also a Cross City corrections officer, turned herself in alongside Jenkins on Friday afternoon. Calvert, 37, sent written communication to three male inmates between May and June of 2019, according to the affidavit. She was released later that same afternoon. Arrest documents do not indicate that Calvert sent sexually explicit messages to the inmates.

The Department of Corrections said in an email it has zero tolerance for staff who act inappropriately.

“The actions of these individuals in no way reflect the tireless dedication and selfless service exemplified by more than 12,000 correctional officers across the state, who work every day to keep Florida communities safe,” the statement says.

In June, Calvert was fired from her role with the department, and Jenkins resigned.

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