The Department of Corrections has arrested three staff members at three different state prisons for trying to smuggle in drugs.
The arrests come after the DOC significantly tightened security to prevent smuggling—much of which officials have blamed on inmates and outside friends and family.
One of those arrested was Rick Davis, a staffer who taught inmates to cook at SCI Houtzdale. The other two were guards; Stephen Palermini worked at Somerset, and Skyler Galgon at Cambridge Springs.
All three are suspended without pay and facing felony charges.
Corrections Spokeswoman Amy Worden said when the department upped mail and visitor security after a rash of reported smuggling last summer, they expected people to try and sneak drugs in other ways.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” she said. “There’s a high demand for drugs in prisons, and so there’s pressure on everybody who’s coming in and out.”
She noted, the DOC doesn’t consider guards to be the biggest smuggling risk.
“We have had tons of busts of visitors in the visitor centers,” she said. “It’s really hard to keep up with the number of drug busts we’ve had.”
Those visiting room busts have increased since security got tighter in September, Worden said.
According to data provided by the DOC, from September 2018 through January 2019 staffers have been caught with drugs three times, visitors 34 times, and inmates 934 times.
Nevertheless, the department says its tighter security measures have noticeably reduced drug inflow.
Worden said she’s expecting the visiting room situation to improve soon, once the prisons finish installing new body scanners.
Officials have come under fire for some of the new security precautions.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued over a policy that required mail from lawyers to be photocopied and temporarily kept on file in state facilities.
The DOC recently settled and agreed to stop the practice.