A pregnant ex-prison officer burst into tears as she was jailed for 12 months after exchanging love letters with a prisoner.
Syndi Baker, of Chippendale Walk, Broadfield, was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Monday December 22 after pleading guilty on November 24 to two counts of misconduct in public office.
Baker, 25, who had served at HMP Isis, in Greenwich, and HMP High Downs, in Banstead, became the subject of an internal investigation after an inmate alluded to the pair having a sexual relationship.
The court heard police were called in and a number of letters were discovered following a search of her bedroom, which showed she was in contact with a man jailed for life in 2009 for murder, who she had met during the course of her prison officer job.
Ruby Selva, prosecuting, said the letters contained sexual innuendos and romantic overtures.
One written by Baker and dated June 1 2012, had never been sent but showed she was “receptive of his interest.”
Ms Selva said: “She writes as if they were friends. They have something special, that they can work through things, that she loves him.”
The court heard Baker got to know the prisoner when she worked at HMP Isis – a young offenders’ institution – between 2010 and 2012.
After this time, she would go to Croydon to meet the prisoner’s brother to collect letters he had written to her.
Police found the brother’s number in her phone under a pseudonym.
Ms Selva said this in itself represented a further offence, as the brother had also served jail time and it was against the law for prison officers to be in contact with ex-prisoners.
Citing the letters’ content as damning proof of the inappropriate relationship between guard and prisoner, Ms Selva said: “There are clear expressions of love and the future that they will have together.”
But Rachel Naylor, defending, said it was absurd to seriously consider a future with a man serving a life sentence.
She said: “In my submission, they show the immaturity of Mrs Baker and are probably indicative of a fantasy. It is simply a false fantasy rather than a meaningful bond.”
Ms Naylor added: “Mrs Baker accepts that she displayed extraordinary stupidity. She accepts she foolishly, wilfully, misconducted herself. She accepts that is inexcusable. She has maintained throughout there has been no physical contact.”
Baker, whose parents were prison officers, was also said to have had an inappropriate relationship with a prisoner serving a five-year jail term for firearms offences.
A letter from this inmate to Baker was intercepted in HMP Highdown in 2012, in which the prisoner referred to their relationship as “our little thing,” and made clear his sexual intentions.
Sentencing her to 12 months, Judge Christopher Critchlow told Baker she would serve half that sentence, so would be out before she was due to give birth.
He said: “The integrity of each officer is of paramount importance. Something like this, of course, reflects on others with whom you work.
“There must be an immediate term of imprisonment. There must be an element of deterrent.”