Five Ala. Correctional Officers Busted for Smuggling Drugs, Smartphones to Inmates

ELMORE, AL (WKRG) — Five correctional officers at an Alabama state prison have been arrested for smuggling contraband to inmates in a bribery scheme used for personal gain.

Following a three-month investigation at the Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore, the ADOC found that the following employees abused their positions as correctional officers to profit from prison contraband:

  • Joshua Alexander, 26, of Hayneville
  • Ronald Dickerson, 23, of Montgomery
  • Patrick Jones, 42, of Montgomery
  • Leonard Scott, 31, of Montgomery
  • Jarod McDowell, 29, of Wetumpka
News 5 aired a special report in 2016 on smartphones becoming the most valuable contraband being smuggled into prisons. Inmates video called News 5, saying the guards were the biggest sellers.

According to the ADOC, the Investigations and Intelligence Division’s Corruption and Fraud Task Force initiated the investigation after receiving information of a suspected bribery scheme involving officers and inmates. In return for giving inmates contraband such as drugs and cellphones, investigators found that the inmates were using the cellphones to illegally purchase items for the officers in exchange for contraband.

      NEWS 5 SPECIAL REPORT: Holman Inmates Reveal How Smartphones Are Smuggled Into Alabama Prisons

The DOC investigation revealed the officers accepted bribes ranging from home electronics, clothing, and automobile accessories; to a cruise purchased by inmates who were using contraband cellphones for creating online money accounts that facilitated the scheme. There are pending charges against the inmates involved as well.

An inmate at Holman Prison speaks to News 5’s J.B. Biunno for our “Smartphones in Prison” special report.

As News 5 uncovered in a special report “Smartphones in Prison” in 2016, multiple inmates at Holman Prison in Atmore told News 5’s J.B. Biunno through video calls that correctional officers were selling smartphones to inmates for top-dollar. The correctional officers, according to the inmates, justify the cellular contraband by viewing it as a way to “keep the prison population busy” and limit violence.

News 5 was told the average price for a smartphone behind prison walls was $500, with the price for chargers averaging $150.

The announcement of the arrests on Tuesday comes from Staton Prison in Elmore — not Holman Prison in Atmore — though inmates told News 5 they believe correctional officers are smuggling smartphones and drugs into every prison in Alabama.

An inmate shows the interior of Holman Prison to News 5’s J.B. Biunno via video call, explaining that correctional officers view smartphones as a way to calm the prison population.

“After months of investigating this case, our corruption and fraud task force uncovered the bribery scheme involving correctional officers who are sworn to protect the public, but instead chose to use their position to illegally further their self-interest,” said ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

As stated in the press release, the ADOC has increased facility inspections and searches and is in the process of installing new body scanners in its facilities for finding and detecting contraband. The department is considering trained canine units as an option for interdicting the contraband cellphones.

The public can report a corruption claim to the Department of Corrections online by going to http://www.doc.alabama.gov, or by calling the ADOC Corruption Hotline number at 1-866-293-7799.

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