Sewing teacher accused of smuggling tobacco into San Joaquin County Honor Farm

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) -- A woman who taught sewing to inmates at the San Joaquin County Honor Farm was charged with a felony.

Investigators said Heidi Murphy was caught Thursday by jail staff trying to smuggle an unopened, one-pound bag of tobacco into the jail.

“She comes once a week for a sewing class at our Honor Farm for the girls,” said San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office in-custody spokeswoman Jennifer Kline.

Kline told FOX40 Murphy had been volunteering at the jail for months as a program provider.

“She came in with two bags. One bag had, I believe, like yarn and sewing material and the other bag had more sewing material and it was wrapped up in the sewing material stuff,” Kline explained.

The sheriff's office said Murphy did pass her required security clearance before becoming a program provider.

They told FOX40 they have nearly 100 volunteers and this is the first time any one of them has been caught bringing in contraband.

“Tobacco used to be sold in our jail and several years ago it was taken off the commissary list. It just causes a lot of problems,” Kline said. “When tobacco is in the jail people will barter with tobacco for commissary. If they don't have money for commissary, if they get tobacco slipped in to them then they can barter with it and it just causes problems.”

Murphy was released from jail Thursday without bail but will have to appear in court at a later date.

“Only she knows why she brought it in and who she brought it in for,” Kline said.

FOX40 reached out to a friend of Murphy's who said she was surprised to learn of the arrest.

“When I read it I thought, ‘Wow, this is really sad,’” said friend Dawn Eaton. “I don't condone what she did at all. I think what she did was wrong and she's going to have to pay the consequences for it.”

But the sheriff's office said all volunteers and jail staff know the rules -- drugs, alcohol and tobacco are contraband.

“Definitely we tell them you can’t bring anything in to inmates and we also tell them if somebody is pressuring you or if somebody is asking you to do it, to notify us. And that didn't happen,” Kline said.

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