When correctional officials cut open the footballs that were thrown over the fence at the Perry Correctional Institution, they said they found tobacco and 41.9 grams of marijuana. But it’s the pile of cell phones behind those giant bags that have legislators concerned.
“Cell phones are one of the most dangerous communication tools that inmates have to the outside and they are able to wreak violence upon staff as well as other inmates,” said Senator Karl Allen.
He said it’s been an issue for years, cell phones becoming a weapon if they get behind bars.
“We’ve seen that with Captain Johnson out of Lee Correctional, someone ordered a hit from behind bars on him and he was shot several times in his home at point blank range,” said SCDC Director Bryan Stirling.
Finding a sweet spot has been a struggle for law makers and many are hopeful progress is coming with a new executive order signed by Governor Henry McMaster designed to bump up security.
“What this will allow us to do is have these volunteers who are class one law enforcement officers in all of our communities around the state come and help us patrol the perimeters of our prisons,” Stirling said. “Maybe in towers and things of that nature so they can stop the throwing of these contraband items in our prisons.”
The Department of Corrections Director said it’s not just happening in South Carolina. Nationwide he said criminals and gang members are running illegal businesses from their cells, making contraband valuable on the inside.
“People are fighting over contraband,” Stirling said. “They are fighting over real money now.”
He said they’ll do anything to get it past the guards. Kadeem Cobb is locked up in the Greenville County Detention Center on $13,000 bond. He’s accused of stuffing footballs and throwing them over the fence at Perry Correctional, but it doesn’t stop there.
“In Georgia they were trying to hide it in lettuce heads and things of that nature,” Stirling said. “Just disguised in mayonnaise bottles, a big ol jug of mayonnaise they can put it in.”
Law makers said anything you can think of, they’ve tried. Senator Karl Allen said this order is a step in the right direction, but he said they’ve still got a long way to go.
“It’s going to take all of us working together and a strict approach and perhaps increasing penalties for those that are caught before we really solve the problem,” Allen said.
Thanks to the executive order from Governor McMaster, corrections officials said there are many levels to these changes prisoners are about to start seeing.
Stirling said it starts with the guards, they are also adding officers as well as building towers and installing cameras. Some prisons are even getting golf course-like netting to stop the throw overs.
Corrections officials said they don’t have a specific date, but it will be very soon. They were given a 20 day timeline for the order to be worked on.
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