Recreation employees investigated for smuggling contraband into prison

By: Jonathan Martin Email
By: Jonathan Martin Email

March 21, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---On March 12, News 12 reported that Richmond County Correctional Institution prisoners were somehow obtaining banned items.

Now, after an investigation, prison officials say they know one way inmates are getting them.

The question of how state prisoners are sneaking cell phones and pornography inside Richmond County's Correctional Institution may have been answered. A tip led to the search of the Recreation and Parks Department's maintenance shop on Lumpkin Road.

Now several Recreation and Parks employees are being investigated.

"Yesterday, we found cell phones that was hidden in this building here," assistant director Robert Howard told News 12.

Each morning, some of the inmate crews come to the Recreation maintenance shop to get equipment needed for the day. It appears that instead of just having access to the equipment, they also had access to pornographic magazines and cell phones.

Howard says he found porn magazines in a medicine cabinet and five prepaid cell phones tucked away in the ceiling.

He says inmate work crews have access to the building on a daily basis, often to use the bathroom. But he says they are supposed to be monitored.

"Someone dropped the ball," he said. "Someone turned their heads. This is very, very serious."

But who is supplying the phones? Stan Brown has worked in the recreation department for nine years, and he says a handful of his coworkers hid the phones and magazines for the prisoners.

"They would hide it in a hole in the brick wall; they would hide it in the towel dispenser," he said.

Brown says he reported this to his supervisor, Robert Howard, months ago.

Howard says that's true, but Brown had no proof so nothing could be done.

Now something is being done.

"Right now, we are investigating some of our regular city employees," Howard said.

Now inmates may not be the only ones in trouble. Howard says this investigation will likely end with the termination of and criminal charges brought against recreation employees.

There's no answer yet as to how drugs are ending up in the jail. That is still being investigated.

But recreation heads say some employees are being asked to take polygraph tests, since right now, a lot of fingers are being pointed.

There is a city policy stating that if asked by supervisors, Augusta employees must take a polygraph test or be subject to termination.

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