Crime and Justice

Corrections worker accused of paying for sex with parolee he supervised

A Vermont Department of Corrections worker is facing charges for allegedly paying for sex with a woman he was supervising.

Joshua Russ, 35, of Brattleboro, a community corrections officer, is expected to be arraigned Friday in Windham County criminal court on charges of sexual exploitation of an inmate and prostitution, according to a Vermont State Police statement issued Thursday afternoon.

Russ was arrested Thursday and ordered held on $5,000 bail pending his arraignment, police said.  

Police say they began their investigation after the woman reported to the Brattleboro Probation and Parole office on May 29 that Russ, who was supervising her in the community, paid her for oral sex three to four times, starting in January.

The case had been referred by the Corrections Department to the Brattleboro Police Department, with the state police becoming involved when investigators learned of incidents that occurred outside of Brattleboro, according to the release. 

In addition to interviewing the woman, police said they also reviewed “supporting evidence,” including text message exchanges between Russ and the woman. 

Police said the investigation revealed that one of the incidents of Russ paying the woman for sex occurred in Russ’ vehicle in a parking lot in Brattleboro, and two others occurred in a roadside pull-off in Newfane.

No other information from state police was immediately available. More details are expected to be released following Russ’ arraignment Friday when an affidavit filed in support of the charges becomes publicly available. 

Russ was placed on paid administrative leave May 29, according to the corrections department, the same day the complaint was made.  

Joshua Russ, 35, of Brattleboro booking photo taken Thursday, June 18, 2020.

According to the corrections department, Russ worked as a corrections officer at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield from 2005 to 2008, and then rehired as a community corrections officer in the Brattleboro Parole Office in 2019.

“A community corrections officer is not someone who carries a caseload,” James Baker, interim corrections commissioner, said Thursday.

“They are folks that are out in the community monitoring and ensuring that people that are on supervision are in compliance,” Baker said, adding, “A good share of that are folks that are furloughed.” 

Baker said that an internal investigation has been ordered and he expected it to proceed “swiftly.” 

The commissioner credited DOC employees with “immediately” reporting the incident when the woman made the complaint. 

“They reported the information to hold someone accountable,” Baker said. “For that, I am thankful.”

Baker, in a statement issued by the department, said that the department has “zero tolerance” for the alleged behavior leading to the charges.

“I cannot emphasize enough how upsetting these allegations are,” Baker said in the statement. “The people of Vermont put a high level of trust in DOC personnel. I expect every staff member to honor that trust.” 

He added, “If these allegations are proven to be true, the trust that is given to us was violated.”

The criminal investigation, police said, remains ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Marie Beland at the state police barracks in Westminster at 722-4600.

The sex charges Thursday are the latest brought in over a year involving a person working in the correctional system.

A corrections officer at the Springfield prison was charged last year in a sex case involving an inmate at the facility and a contracted mental health counselor at the same prison was charged earlier this year for having sex with an inmate.

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