Another tragic consequence of prosecutors ignoring crimes committed by prison staff. We need many more prosecutions like this one. Crack down and hit them hard, sending a clear message that such crimes will not be tolerated.
Here we see 5,000 cell phones found in one jail in one year. How many people have died or become addicted because inmates use cell phones to run meth labs, murder witnesses, etc.? FAR too many, the guards who smuggle in those phones are to blame!
Excerpts from the Article:
About 130 people have been arrested following a joint two-year investigation by the FBI and the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC). Indictments for 75 of the arrestees were announced in September 2015; another 46 indictments, all involving current or former prison employees, were reported in February 2016. [See: PLN, March 2017, p.38].
Known as “Operation Ghost Guard,” the investigation targeted contraband in GDOC facilities and crimes perpetuated by prisoners through cell phones and outside accomplices. “The indictments allege that inmates managed and directed a number of fraud schemes that victimized citizens from across the country from within the Georgia prison system using contraband cell phones,” said John A. Horn, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
Low-paid guards and other prison staff smuggle the phones for a price, despite the risk that they could face prosecution and end up behind bars themselves. Prisoners’ friends and family members throw packages over prison fences. And increasingly there are hard-to-detect drones making contraband drops.
“During the first six months of this year, more than 35 drones have been spotted and/or confiscated. GDOC considers drones a serious threat to the safe and secure operations of our facilities,” she added. To combat these smuggling tactics, the GDOC has installed infrared cameras to detect people approaching fences, where they might throw packages over. It is also erecting 40-foot nets – much like the screens that protect baseball fans from fly balls – to stop drone deliveries. Additionally, state prison officials have spent $2.25 million at three facilities to install systems that intercept cell phone signals and quickly drain phone batteries. But prisoners can still find areas where the blocking system doesn’t reach.
Technology exists that would allow prison officials to jam cell phone signals on a large scale, so even if phones are smuggled in they wouldn’t work. But authorities have been hampered by a longstanding ban on the jamming technology by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as it could also affect homes and businesses located near prisons.
Clay Nix, deputy director of the GDOC’s Office of Professional Standards, said some prisoners have boasted of making $5,000 to $10,000 in a day by selling contraband cell phones, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs.
The indictments announced by Horn’s office between September 2015 and February 2016 charged guards, prisoners and civilians with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, bribery, smuggling contraband and extortion.
Further, indictments were issued for guards and prisoners at Autry State Prison, Baldwin State Prison, Dooly State Prison, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Macon State Prison, Pulaski State Prison and the GEO Group-owned Riverbend Correctional Facility.
The initial investigation centered on Autry State Prison, a medium-security facility that houses about 1,700 prisoners. But federal authorities said later in 2016 that the investigation had spread with the arrests of dozens of corrections employees who allegedly smuggled contraband into other state prisons and accepted bribes to protect drug deals that were part of a federal undercover operation. The total number of arrests eventually reached around 130.
Of the 51 initial arrests at Autry State Prison, 32 cases remained open as of June 2017. Seven of the 15 guards pleaded guilty, with five being placed on probation and two receiving prison terms up to 18 months. Seven of the 19 prisoners and former prisoners pleaded guilty or were convicted. One parolee, Reggie Perkins, 36, was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in federal prison on August 22, 2016, after authorities said he admitted to laundering $1 million in illegal proceeds from a fraud scheme run from state prisons.
By August 2017, all of the 46 GDOC guards who were indicted in February 2016 had been sentenced; all except two received federal prison terms, which ranged from 18 to 114 months. The last guard to be sentenced, Tramaine Tucker, who had been employed at GEO Group’s Riverbend Correctional Facility, received five years in prison.
“It’s troubling that so many officers from state correctional institutions across Georgia were willing to sell their badges for personal payoffs from purported drug dealers,” said U.S. Attorney Horn.
Despite the arrests and convictions, prison officials acknowledge that the use of smart phones and other technology by prisoners and their outside accomplices is a game of “cat and mouse” – one they are not yet winning. From January to August 2017, GDOC officials seized nearly 5,000 contraband cell phones.