Woman arrested for helping inmate boyfriend smuggle drugs into prison

Published 8:19 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Following a string of arrests for contraband found on inmates at the Decatur County Correctional Facility over that last month, officers with the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office and the Pataula Drug Task Force arrested a civilian distributor on Sunday.

“We’ve been working on this for about two weeks now,” Warden Gordon Screen said. “We had received information that a female visitor was dropping off contraband down near the EMS area on Airport Road. So for the last two weekends I’ve been watching vehicles to see if anybody would turn up in the EMS building, and it just so happened that Sunday after visitation I saw the female in a gray Honda Coupe turn into EMS. I contacted 911.”

Tammy Benford was driving the car, and she admitted to officers that she was dropping off drugs for her boyfriend Ernest Cooper, whom she had just visited. She has been visiting Cooper for about a month, according to Screen and she admitted to officers that she had dropped of contraband two previous times. Following a search of her car she was found to be in possession of about an ounce of marijuana, Bugler tobacco, tape for wrapping cigarettes and clear baggies for distributing the contraband.

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“A lot of times you have to make a judgment call on a crime,” Investigator Brian Donalson said. “By putting that marijuana where an inmate could get it and her admitting that, she actually distributed that marijuana. So we went with the bigger charge, which was possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.”

Following her admission that she had provided contraband previously, Warden Screen requested a search of Cooper. During that search, he was found to be in possession of twelve Bugler cigarettes.

According to Donalson, Cooper will be charged with criminal intent to possess marijuana in addition to internal punishment later this week.

Donalson said that in an effort to crack down on civilians distributing contraband to inmates, they have a zero tolerance policy and will charge anyone who is caught with a felony.

“This is not an isolated incident,” Donalson said. “Very good people are ruining their lives because they’re deciding to listen to a family member or a boyfriend and them bringing dope or contraband to drop of to that inmate.”

Officers have also asked for help from the community to report incidents where they see passersby distributing items to inmates on work detail. They said that you can leave the area then call 911 or the prison to report what you saw and you have the option to remain anonymous.

“Prosecuting the people that are dropping this stuff off is getting us a lot farther,” Donalson said. “It’s methamphetamine, believe it or not it’s heroine, it’s cellphones, it’s Bugler tobacco, it’s sinus medication.”

Under Georgia law something as simple as giving an inmate a cigarette is a felony.

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