Prison System Scandal Burdened With New Allegations

( — New indictments were announced last week by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office against state Department of Corrections employees and inmates, McClatchy reported.

A state grand jury issued the indictments following three investigations into prison staff who smuggle contraband, particularly cell phones.

In announcing the new round of indictments, Attorney General Alan Wilson said a “combination of public corruption and contraband” has contributed to crimes being committed against South Carolina citizens.

The investigations produced dozens of indictments against nine individuals, seven of whom worked for the Department of Corrections, on charges ranging from conspiracy and misconduct in office to narcotics trafficking.

In the investigation known as Operation Clean Sweep, Jacob Lance, an inmate at Lee Correctional Institution, was indicted for using a contraband phone to encourage his girlfriend to send him explicit videos of her daughter being molested.

Lance and his girlfriend have been charged with five counts of first-degree criminal abuse of a minor, ten counts of first-degree criminal exploitation of a minor, and one count of conspiracy.

Brian Keely and Lt. Brittany Welch, two employees from the Lee Correctional Institution, have been charged with facilitating the smuggling of contraband phones into a prison.

Keely made deals with inmates to smuggle contraband, and Welch informed inmates about contraband searches and even held onto contraband for inmates until the searches were over.

The other two investigations, Operation Gatekeeper and Operation Block Party, resulted in the arrest of five corrections officers who are charged with helping bring contraband into South Carolina prisons.

As part of the state’s effort to stop the flow of phones into prisons, the Department of Corrections has begun to identify and disable contraband cell phones and devices.

While state agencies are prevented by federal law from jamming cell phones, the current program allows the Department of Corrections to identify unapproved phones that can then be deactivated by the provider.

Since the end of July, around 790 contraband devices at Lee Correctional Institution have been deactivated.

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