Prison worker's suspension upheld for being too familiar with inmates

A prison caseworker was suspended for 10 days without pay after admitting he stepped far over the line by shadow boxing with inmates and letting them give him back rubs.

The boxing and back rubs were two of several violations prompting the suspension of Paul Hochsprung.

Hochsprung appealed the suspension saying he did not believe the conduct was unacceptable.

But hearing officer Harry Egghart agreed with prison officials that the both the conduct and Hochsprung's refusal to stop after being told it was unacceptable are "egregious" violations.

In addition to the massages and shadow boxing -- which Northern Nevada Correctional Center Warden Don Helling said is a serious violation of security rules -- Hochsprung admitted having extended personal conversations with inmates in his office, allowing them to call him by his first name and giving inmates candy.

Hochsprung, however, was generally described as an excellent caseworker. He said he didn't give any special favors to the inmates he was informal with and that he was trying to build and keep a level of confidence with those inmates.

Egghart said in his decision Hochsprung admitted to practically all the accusations about his conduct. He said the back massages were "clearly the most serious conduct" and quoted Helling as saying that particular conduct compromised Hochsprung professionally within the prison.

"Given that inmates were touching and personally and closely association with the employee, and not for any authorized purpose, the conduct falls under the prohibition of unauthorized association," the decision states.

In addition, Egghart said he defers to Helling and other prison officials as to the seriousness of the security concerns the conduct raises.

He upheld the 10 day suspension without pay in his order signed March 26.


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