Contraband problem grows in Georgia jails -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Contraband problem grows in Georgia jails

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - In Sumter County, three people have been arrested and charged with selling marijuana to an inmate on a work detail.

The arrest comes just days after a guard at the Sumter County Correctional Institute was arrested for a similar act.

Inmate work details are a way Sumter County can get needed community projects finished at a more efficient cost.

"What we've tried to assemble is a group of inmates that have skills in the carpentry and construction trades and we are about to complete two projects solely with inmate labor and some construction supervisors," said Sumter County Administrator Lynn Taylor.

Lately criminals are taking advantage of the situation. 22-year-old Felecia Champion, 23-year-old Travis McGruder, and 19-year-old Simone Boone were arrested and charged with sale of marijuana to an inmate at this site on Rucker Street.

"It's still all under investigation, but yesterday we arrested three individuals who were attempting to deliver marijuana to an inmate on a work detail," said GBI Special Agent in Charge Danny Jackson.

In fact additional charges were filed against Sumter County Correctional Institute Guard James Cooper who investigators say sold cell phones and marijuana to several inmates on work details since December. One of those charges is theft by taking.

"At the work site another person who worked there discovered some cell phones there on site. This individual gave these cell phones to Mr. Cooper who actually just put those cellphones in his vehicle and didn't do anything else with them," said Jackson.

It's not just a Sumter County problem. District Attorney Plez Hardin says contraband is a problem at the Lee County Correctional Institute as well as other jails and prisons in his circuit and across the state. He wants local officials to help crack down on the problem.

"It's my understanding this is a nationwide problem with contraband being infiltrated into the prison systems, whether its jails CI's, state facilities," Taylor said.  

Sumter County officials say security protocols already include checking each work site for contraband before and after the work is done. Now they'll look at what else can be done to stop the problem in their community.

Around the country, corrections systems have considered a system that disables cell phones inside the walls of a facility as a way to alleviate the problem.

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