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The dangers of prison contraband smuggling

If you as a prison employee are involved in illegal activities with inmates you may be the cause of a fellow employee or an inmate being injured or killed

Correctional Officer Beverly Sly was sitting at home off duty thinking about how she was going to pay her past due mortgage payment and purchase school supplies and clothing for her daughter who would be starting sixth grade this August. Providing for her daughter got the best of her and she decided to make just one more run. Beverly reached in her purse and took out a small piece of paper with a phone number on it and the name “Uncle Ray.”

She stared at the number for what seemed like an eternity as she sipped her morning coffee and waited for her daughter to awaken. She then picked up her cell phone and dialed the number. A man with a strong Latin accent answered the phone and said “This is Ray, What’s up?”

“This is Beverly I was told you would be expecting my call.” Ray said, “Oh yea, you got my number from my nephew Joe right?”

Beverly answered “Yes.” Ray said “Ok cool, if you’re ready meet me at the Hooters parking lot at 9:00PM tonight, I will be in a jacked up, jet black, four door GMC truck, Just park next to me and call me.”

Beverly replied that she would be there and she would be in an older blue Toyota Carola. The call ended and with a nervous sweat and tears in her eyes Beverly went to check on her daughter.

At roughly 2100 hours, Officer Beverly Sly pulled into the Hooters parking lot next to the black GMC and called her contact number.

“This is Ray” the man answered, “Get in my truck on the passenger’s side.”

Beverly replied OK and got into the truck. Ray handed her an envelope and asked her to count it. Beverly counted out twelve hundred dollars and told Ray it was all there.

Ray then handed Beverly a cell phone with charger, seven scalpel blades, some marijuana, and some synthetic marijuana known as K2. As soon as Beverly said she would get the items to inmate Joe Cartel, Ray hit his break lights and deputies surrounded the truck and pulled her out onto the ground facedown and handcuffed her.

Beverly then yelled “My baby! my baby!”

Deputies and Prison Inspectors looked inside her car and found her daughter in the back seat crying. Beverly went to jail and her daughter was turned over to state services.

Days before Beverly’s arrest inmate Joe Cartel was caught with marijuana and a switchblade knife in his underwear during a 1:00 a.m. surprise dormitory search conducted by the Prison Inspectors office. In an agreement with the local state attorney office he would give up his main source for contraband smuggling in exchange for a lighter sentence on his charges of possession of marijuana and conspiracy to introduce contraband into a correctional facility, both of which are felony charges in the prison world.

Like the majority of inmates, Joe quickly threw Beverly to the wolves to save himself. He worked with the prison inspector by wearing a wire and giving Beverly an undercover phone number to call Uncle Ray for a payment and pickup of drugs and contraband delivery to the prison. Unknown at that time Beverly would soon be making a phone call that would change her life forever.

The Threat of Contraband Entering Our Prisons

Beverly’s story is occurring much too often with male and female prison staff members. With the recent series of events unfolding in the New York prison escapes involving inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt and the prison romance between Joyce Mitchell and Richard Matt further establishes the fact we have an ongoing problem in our prison system not only nationwide but worldwide.

Yes some countries are stricter than the United States and some are weaker, but the corruption and smuggling of contraband goes on in every prison. Inmates manipulate weak minded or desperate prison staff into prison romances, drug and contraband smuggling and if that’s not bad enough aiding inmates with escape plots. Look at Joaquin Guzman, “El Chapo” Mexico’s most-wanted dug lord and his escape.

Not far away in California three inmates escaped from the Orange County Jail with the aid of a prison school teacher who taught English to inmates. She allegedly provided maps and overhead photos of the surrounding area of the jail to the inmates. There are further allegations being investigated that she brought in tools for the inmates.

The Hazards Caused by Prison Contraband

When a prison staff member, certified or civilian, decides to work with an inmate by aiding in contraband smuggling or romantic relationships it places everyone in danger, including the inmates trying to stay out of trouble and do their time and go home. Inmates high on drugs have physically injured or have killed officers with weapons that are homemade or smuggled into the prison.

Inmate escapes have caused private citizens and law enforcement injury and even death. Prison fights and riots have been caused by smuggled drugs entering our prisons because of prison drug lord competition or non-payment of drugs from one inmate to another. Staff members breaking up with an inmate during a prison romance have been attacked and injured.

Many of the injuries and deaths in prison can be traced back to contraband smuggling or prison romance. If you as a prison employee are involved in illegal activities with inmates you may be the cause of a fellow employee or an inmate being injured or killed.

In Prison Wealth is Power for Inmates

For inmates in prison wealth is power. It is probably the most powerful weapon an inmate can have. When an inmate has wealth he or she does not necessarily need physical strength. Protection can be paid for as well as romance through money and manipulation of a weak officer in need of financial help or a strong greed to make more money. Inmates need contraband to build status among the other inmates. Most will harm any person who interferes with their wealth.

In the case of a staff member assisting with introduction of contraband, the inmates will turn them over to the authorities when they are done using them and in some cases physically harm them or threaten to harm their family. In the end there is no gain for anyone who gets involved with an inmate. The end result always ends up with the staff member receiving one of the following resolutions, being fired, arrested, a probation, jail or prison sentence or a combination of two or more.

I believe that any type of staff-inmate personal relationship and anyone involved in prison contraband smuggling or aiding in the escape of an inmate should be met with a strong prison sentence and a zero tolerance policy. I also realize prison staff caught in illegal activities have no prior record and may not score out to a prison sentence. In those cases I would hope jail sentences are imposed. I do not believe that is too much to ask for someone who has placed fellow staff members and citizens in grave danger.

Corruption Destroys Correctional Agencies from the Inside Out

Corrupt staff members make the job even more stressful than it already is. Hard working, loyal, honest staff members have been threatened with violence or loss of job by corrupt bullying officers. I have investigated these types of cases and have interviewed officers scared for their jobs and safety. No honest person should have to deal with this type of stress.

Reporting corruption should be welcomed and commended. Strong backing by management and thorough investigations must remain constant to weed out the bad apples and protect honest staff members and aid in the proper care, custody and control of inmates.

Many studies have been conducted as to why an officer or prison staff member would go to the dark side. Some say the low pay is to blame while others blame it on low education levels.

The “thin blue line” has also been blamed — an organizational mandate which dictates that officers have been placed into a subculture and should therefore uphold the concept of loyalty and not tell on each other. As a result corruption among co-workers is not reported by those officers who uphold the unofficial “code of silence.”

Another widely held belief is that being ensconced with the inmate population for long periods of time, officers become friends with the inmates and this causes them to do special favors for inmates. Gang members have recruited other gang members to apply for correctional officer positions in order to have an inside connection. This provides the opportunity for contraband smuggling and sexual relations to occur. The recruits although gang members, have a clean record and are not known to be affiliated with gangs.

I had a case with an officer in Miami smuggling cocaine into the prison. After the arrest it was determined the officer was a long time gang member and was ordered by the inmates to become a correctional officer.

It is not only the supervisor’s job to report corruption; all persons who have knowledge of a crime or violation are held responsible to report it. If an officer has the power to report, prevent or aid in the prevention of a crime and refuses to stop a wrongful act, then he or she shall be liable and can be joined as a defendant in this case.

Until a stronger system is put in place to fight corruption, we will continue to sentence corrupt officers to prison or probation for their crimes. Corrections will continue to get a bad reputation based on the actions of the minority not the majority. Prison officials and politicians need to start earning their money and nice office, get off their hind quarters and go see what is happening in their prisons. The same goes for the Wardens who do not leave their office and walk their prison compound for some direct contact with their hard working correctional staff.

The difference between a corrupt officer and an honest officer is: The corrupt officer has a PRICE and the honest officer has INTEGRITY. A very special thank you to all the honest hard working correctional officers and prison staff. May you go home safely at the end of each shift.

Gary York, author of “Corruption Behind Bars” and “Inside The Inner Circle,” served in the United States Army from 1978 to 1987 and was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant from the Military Police Corps. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Gary York completed the 7th Army Non-Commissioned Officers Leadership Academy with a 96.6% in the Train to Train method of instruction. Gary received the Army Commendation Medal and Soldier of the Quarter Award while serving. Gary was a Military Police shift supervisor for five years.

Gary then began a career with the Department of Corrections as a correctional officer. Gary was promoted to probation officer, senior probation officer and senior prison inspector where for the next 12 years he conducted criminal, civil and administrative investigations in many state prisons. Gary was also assigned to the Inspector General Drug Interdiction Team conducting searches of staff and visitors entering the prisons for contraband during weekend prison visitation. Gary also received the Correctional Probation Officer Leadership Award for the Region V, Tampa, Florida, Correctional Probation and he won the Outstanding Merit Award for leadership in the Region V Correctional Officer awards Tampa, Florida.