Inmates may not be charged in Department of Correction probe

The Delaware Department of Correction reported 80 drug-involved contraband incidents at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna from May 2015 to April 2016. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

The Delaware Department of Correction reported 80 drug-involved contraband incidents at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna from May 2015 to April 2016. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

SMYRNA — As investigation of alleged smuggling of drugs and cell phones into a state prison continues, it’s unclear if any inmates or outside conspirators will be charged in the case.

According to federal authorities in affidavits unsealed last week, two officers at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center identified by name 26 inmates who they allegedly smuggled contraband to; the names were not disclosed in court papers and others reportedly involved outside the prison were anonymously referenced as taking part.

Correctional Officers Thomas Boyce Jr. and Paul Hursey, both 46-year-old Dover residents, were charged for allegedly accepting monetary bribes and delivering contraband to prison inmates. They are currently on leave without pay.

In a criminal complaint, a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigator said that Mr. Boyce admitted to “smuggling drugs and cell phones into JTVCC for the past 4-5 years, mostly while assigned to the infirmary from 2011 through 2014 …”

Also the joint federal and Department of Correction investigation also brought the arrest of former Correction Officer Lorraine Y. Mosley, who was charged with smuggling a cell phone into Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle.

The investigation also resulted in the arrest of Correctional Officer Danielle Riley (Baker) on two state charges of official misconduct, the Delaware Attorney General’s Office said. Ms. Riley allegedly accepted $200 from one inmate and had a personal relationship with another, according to officials. She is currently on leave without pay.

When issuing a news release announcing arrests last week, federal officials noted that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Commissioner Robert M. Coupe was not available for interview “at this time,” DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said Tuesday.

DSP: Not involved

Last week, the DOC said the Delaware State Police had discretion to charge inmates with making bribes or accepting contraband.

On Wednesday, spokesman Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said the Delaware State Police is not involved in the investigation “in any way,” and referred questions to the United States Department of Justice.

On Wednesday, a United States Attorney for the District of Delaware spokeswoman termed the investigation as “ongoing” and indicated that any future arrests, if made, would be announced publicly.

Citing an ongoing federal investigation, the DOC said it could not comment on whether anyone else has been charged in any way regarding the matter or whether inmates have been disciplined.

The State Police “assists the DOC in conducting unattended or suspicious death investigations which occur inside the prisons as well as any staff related sexual offenses against an inmate that are reported,” Cpl. Fournier said when asked about the process for investigating cases regarding the DOC.

Redistributing contraband

A federal affidavit described some inmates as alleged “traffickers” who redistributed contraband throughout the prison after some Correctional Officers are bribed.

An FBI investigator said in charging documents that a review of smuggled cell phones found led to “observe in the phones text and social media messages to persons outside prison, relating to drug trafficking, money laundering, tax fraud and credit card fraud.”

Also reviewed were DOC incident reports where inmates had responded violently to Correctional Officers who located and seized the smuggled drugs and cell phones.

Smuggled cell phones can cause significant security risks to Correctional Officers within the prison “because inmates often segregated from one another for prison security reasons, such as gang members, can communicate with one another with smuggled cell phones,” the FBI said.

“Additionally, smuggled cell phones enable inmates to communicate with co-conspirators outside prison to continue the same criminal enterprises for which the inmates were convicted.”

The FBI referenced the 2013 death of a JTVCC due to heroin overdose, and a hospitalization in 2014 where an inmate said he received the drug from another inmate.

From May 2015 to April 2016, the DOC said, JTVCC has had 80 contraband incidents involving drugs; the numbers peaked with 10 in October 2015, followed by 16 the next month. The number of incidents has dropped significantly since then, highlighted by three in March and one in April.

Other reported incidents during the same 12-month span included 45 at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, 37 at Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle, and 29 at Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown.

A further breakdown of specific drugs involved was not immediately available, the DOC said.

Inmate population listed in the DOC’s annual report for 2015 included 2,515 at Vaughn, 1,675 at Young, 1,151 at Sussex, and 404 at Baylor.

Drop in devices

While the DOC said a cellular detection device has contributed to a 96 percent drop in devices entering facilities, “No new methods or devices have been deployed for the purpose of detecting drugs as a result of this investigation,” Ms. Gravell said.

Speaking generally regarding the presence of drugs within prison walls, the DOC said, “Tobacco, marijuana, and heroin are most commonly found.

“Inmates found with contraband go before the Disciplinary Board who recommends an appropriate punishment.”

Once drugs are inside the prison their often pungent odor upon use can’t always be detected, the DOC said.

“Not all areas of the prison are confined,” Ms. Gravell said. “Some inmates have access to windows and most inmates are allowed time outdoors.”

DOC officers conduct “unannounced, irregular cell searches to control prison contraband,” Ms. Gravell said.”

“Searches are also conducted when an inmate returns from an outside activity, another facility such as court, and following visitation, among other circumstances. DOC does use K-9s to seek out contraband and maintain civil control.”

The DOC said more information regarding contraband, search, seizure and disposition policy are online at www.doc.delaware.gov/downloads/policies/policy_8-32.pdf

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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