Cracking Down on Prison Contraband

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - We hear about drugs being smuggled into prisons, but cell phones behind bars is something that could be deadly.

Four years ago Captain Robert Johnson a career corrections officer saw firsthand the dangers of cell phones in prison when a hit was put on him and he was shot six times at his home.

"They could be running their criminal enterprises from behind bars," said Corrections Director Bryan Stirling.

As secure as you might expect a prison to be just about every day contraband still gets in. From knives to cell phones it's a growing issue in our state prisons.

Stirling hopes to cut down on some of that with a new tool for people to report inmates who are using social media.

"There are outside people who are feeding us information but there really wasn't a focus on where the tips were going now they will all go to our department of investigation."

The tool has only been on the department website for a few days and dozens of tips have been coming in.

Robert Johnson used to head the Contraband Unit at the Lee Correctional prison.

"We were doing things that no one in our area was doing when it comes to contraband," said Johnson.

His unit's success didn't sit well with one inmate that was also in a gang. One day four years ago, while getting ready for work... his life flashed before his eyes.

"I don't even remember being shot, I just remember sitting on the floor and bleeding."

Johnson was shot six times by Sean Echols who was paid by a fellow gang member behind bars to kill him.

"He decided that the best thing to do was get rid of me, so he put a hit out and he contacted this guy who was also a member of a gang, he just got out of prison and they contacted him with a cell phone and gave him $6,000 dollars to kill me."

Doctors removed part of his intestines and he only can use 50 percent of his lungs.

He credits his wife for having faith and more importantly God for letting him live to see another day.

Everywhere he goes he carries the same kind of bullets that doctors removed from his body, as a reminder to be thankful for still being alive.

"These things travel at 937 feet per second, that's unreal that they could do something life that, God is the reason why I am still alive. The doctor said you should have been dead, he said you are just to stubborn to die. I said stubborn had nothing to do with it; it was God. It was God, I cant say I was too stubborn."

Johnson says it is important to report if an inmate has a cell phone behind bars because the next victim may not be able to live to tell their story like he can.

"Jam the inmates who are doing this and jam the officers who are bringing it in, make them pay, make it a felony for the inmates and for the officers that bring contraband in make it a felony for them, you bring in contraband to where you work in you need to go to jail period. "

Director Stirling says they are also in the process of building watch towers at Lee Correctional and other prisons to prevent people from throwing contraband over prison fences.


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