Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections has arrested three staff members at three different state prisons on suspicion of trying to smuggle in drugs.
The arrests come after the department 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 have been suspended without pay and face felony charges.
When the department upped mail and visitor security after a rash of reported smuggling last summer, officials expected people to try and sneak drugs in other ways, said spokeswoman Amy Worden.
“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.”
The department 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 arrests have increased since security tightened in September, Worden said.
From September through January, staffers have been caught with drugs three times, visitors 34 times, and inmates 934 times, according to department data.
Nevertheless, the department said 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 department recently settled and agreed to stop the practice.