Law \ Legal

Courts Crack Down on Correction Officers Smuggling Contraband into Jails


Across the country this week, corrections officers have been indicted and sentenced for accepting bribes from inmates at detention centers and smuggling in contraband items in Pennsylvania, New York and Texas.

In a Philadelphia city jail, a corrections officer allegedly worked with an incarcerated man to create a black market among detainees for cell phones and drugs, Samantha Melamed reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The officer also coordinated purchasing and delivering at least one AR-15 assault rifle to an outside ally to assist in a revenge murder.

Khalif Workman, nicknamed the “Pizza Man,” was charged with corrupt organization charges for allegedly accepting more than $23,000 in bribes to conduct a criminal smuggling ring with a prisoner at Riverside Correctional Facility, according to a grand jury presentment unsealed Wednesday.

Texts between Garland and co-conspirators presented during the trial show him directing alleged co-conspirators about expectations for drug sales across cell blocks within the jail system.

Another Pennsylvania correctional officer was arrested and pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs and phones into jails last year.

In Lubbock, Texas, a grand jury indicted Alsires Genaro Betancur III, a former Lubbock County detention officer, on Tuesday for providing prohibited substances in the jail where he worked, Gabriel Monte reports for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

A local sheriff’s office arrested Betancur as part of an investigation into narcotics and other contraband found in the detention center, but Betancur was specifically charged with smuggling tattoo pens and tobacco to detainees.

In addition to Betancur, two pill technicians who worked with the jail’s healthcare provider were arrested for providing contraband to inmates.

Detention center Chief Cody Scott told the Avalanche that detainees would exploit officers’ weaknesses and ask them to bring in prohibited items that seem negligible, like tobacco, alcohol and cash. Once the officer complies, they may use the smuggling to extort the officer for more serious contraband.

Rashawn Assanah, a former correction officer at the Robert N. Davoren Center on Rikers Island in New York, was sentenced on Wednesday as well to over two years in prison and thousands in fines for accepting bribes from detainees to smuggle contraband. Assanah previously pled guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges in 2021.

The Department of Justice’s Public Corruption Unity announced the sentencing in the Southern District of New York in a release.

“Rashawn Assanah violated his oath to protect inmates in his care when he accepted cash bribes to smuggle dangerous contraband into Rikers Island,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.

“His prison sentence should send a clear message to any correction officer who may be tempted to smuggle contraband to inmates: this is a serious crime that leads to serious jail time.”

Audrey Nielsen is a contributing editor for The Crime Report.

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