South Carolina

Former SC prison guards and employees took bribes to smuggle contraband for inmates

Several former South Carolina prison employees, including six guards, will be on the opposite side of the bars after pleading guilty to federal charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.

The guards, a food service worker and a horticulture specialist accepted bribes to smuggle banned items into the prisons for inmates, U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon said in a news release.

In little more than a month, all of the former South Carolina Department of Corrections employees pleaded guilty in federal court, according to the news release.

Cell phones, drugs, tobacco and jewelry are among the prohibited items the former employees smuggled into the prisons.

“Those who violate the public trust by taking bribes to smuggle dangerous contraband into our prisons endanger inmates, prison staff, and the general public,” Lydon said in the news release.

Those sentiments were echoed by Bryan Stirling, director of the state Department of Corrections.

“When a correctional officer brings contraband into an institution, it breaks a public trust and makes the institution and our state unsafe for everyone,” Stirling said in the release. “They deserve to spend time behind bars.”

The news release said the specific guilty pleas included:

On Sept. 19, Jamal Early pleaded guilty to use of an interstate facility to facilitate bribery after the former correctional officer at Ridgeland Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle tobacco and A-PVP (a synthetic narcotic) into prison. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

On Sept. 18, Frank Pridgeon pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud after the former correctional officer at Kershaw Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, and cell phones into prison. Pridgeon faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

On Sept. 13, Miguel Williams pleaded guilty to use of an interstate facility to facilitate bribery after the former correctional officer at Perry Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle tobacco and liquor into prison. Williams faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

On Sept. 13, Catherine Prosser pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana after the former correctional officer at McCormick Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle marijuana into prison. Prosser faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

On Sept. 13, Holly Mitchem pleaded guilty to use of an interstate facility to facilitate bribery after the food service worker at Tyger River Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle tobacco and K2 into prison. Mitchem faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

On Sept. 13, Robert Hill pleaded guilty to use of an interstate facility to facilitate bribery after the horticulture specialist at Tyger River Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle marijuana, K2, tobacco, and cell phones into prison. Hill faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

On Sept. 10, Ebonynisha Casby pleaded guilty to use of an interstate facility to facilitate bribery after the correctional officer at Lieber Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle a watch and jewelry into prison. Casby faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

On Aug. 6, Sharon Johnson Breeland pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine after the correctional officer at Broad River Correctional Institution accepted bribes to smuggle meth into prison. Breeland faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.
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