SOUTH SALT LAKE — A contract worker at the Salt Lake County Jail has been arrested for allegedly having illegal sexual relations with inmates.
But Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said it's a complicated investigation because all parties involved could be treated as both suspects and victims.
Heather Kaye Biggs, 31, of South Jordan, was arrested Thursday for investigation of four counts of custodial sexual relations. Investigators contend she had sexual relations in secluded areas of the Salt Lake County Jail's kitchen with at least two male inmates, possibly more, for an unknown period of time.
Biggs was a contract kitchen employee at the jail, working for Trinity Services, when the alleged activity occurred. She had been working at the jail since 2014.
Winder said the kitchen has one civilian worker for every seven inmates. There were approximately 35 people working in the kitchen at any given time, he said. Biggs' job was to help heat up prepared meals and load them onto trays to be delivered to inmates.
Biggs somehow was able to sneak into areas of the kitchen with male inmates undetected, Winder said.
But while the sheriff does not want to minimize Biggs' alleged actions, he believes the inmates were after more than just sex.
"We're still working on the specifics of what motivated the relations. But it's safe to say there was some manipulation involved," he said. "I think that the inappropriate relationships were predicated on them trying to gain other things, specifically contraband brought into the facility. … It wasn't simply just inappropriate interactions."
The arrest was the result of an ongoing internal investigation in collaboration with the Salt Lake Area Metro Gang Unit. After being confronted with the allegations, Biggs made statements collaborating what investigators say happened and quit her job about a week ago.
Winder said his detectives were still investigating whether any contraband — such as drugs, weapons or even a cellphone — was smuggled into the jail as a result of Biggs' relations with inmates.
While inappropriate jail worker/inmate relations are not unique, Winder said the recent escape of two convicted murderers from a maximum security prison in New York who were helped by at least two prison employees who hid tools inside hamburger meat has raised the nation's interest in such issues.
Winder called inmate-staff relations a "frightening situation" that he is constantly monitoring because they can compromise the safety of the entire jail.
"We tell people, 'Do not fall prey to these issues,'" he said.
The inmates who allegedly had relations with Biggs will not face additional criminal charges, and are eligible for some counseling if they want it. But Winder said they could face internal disciplinary actions for allegedly trying to manipulate Biggs.
Biggs was released to pretrial services after being booked into jail. Winder said she was not considered a flight risk.
The investigation into how many inmates were involved and their alleged motivations remained under investigation Friday.
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