Prison black market a steal: Correctional officers get drawn into contraband smuggling

From: Denver Post
Posted: 12/18/2011
By John Ingold
Matthew Amos has wide, boxcar shoulders and steam-engine arms. On Friday he stood before a federal judge in Denver pleading for his life.

If he went to prison, Amos told the judge, he would have to pay fellow inmates for protection. Or he would be “whored out.” Or worse.

It’s what happens to former prison guards who end up behind bars.

“There’s no way I would be able to stay out on that yard without providing some kind of service,” Amos said, voice unsteady. “To be asked to go into that system will be asking me to be something I don’t want to be.”

This is where $17,200 in easy money landed him.

Amos’ conviction for smuggling tobacco into a federal prison in Florence provides a revealing glimpse into the jailhouse black market — where a single bag of tobacco can go for $1,000 and the key players in funneling contraband to inmates are often the very people hired to watch over them.

Between 2001 and 2010, the annual number of federal correctional officers arrested nearly doubled, according to a Justice Department report released in September. During that period, 272 officers were arrested, with many of those cases involving contraband-smuggling.

Tobacco, which was banned in nearly all federal prisons in 2004, has fueled a lucrative, illicit prison economy that proves irresistible to some prison workers. But employees have also been involved in smuggling cellphones, drugs and other items into inmates.

“Some officers can make more than they’re making from their actual paycheck just by smuggling in tobacco,” said Robert Worley, a professor of criminal justice at Texas A&M University — Central Texas, who has studied inappropriate guard-inmate relationships.

Read more: Prison black market a steal: Correctional officers get drawn into contraband smuggling – The Denver Post

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Mumia’s column about the raping officers in PA

(col. writ. 9/29/11 © ‘11 Mumla Abu-Jamal)
Listen to this here on PrisonRadio.

Several months ago. I reported on the firing of a trio of high-ranking prison officials in connection with a series of sexual assaults in a Southwestern Pennsylvania prison.

Few news agencies took up the story. especially national ones. This was astounding. given the nature of the charges: prison guards both raping men and forcing others to assault them, on their very whim. Prison administrators turning a collective blind eye.

Is this not news?

Since that initial report, one prison guard (who spent months on suspension), Harry Nicciletti, has been arrested and faces over 9O-90!–charges stemming from the events.

According to the local DA, 11 other guards will soon be arrested on related charges.

When news first broke of the scandal, it forced some prison observers to recall ex-President George W. Bush, who, after the rise of the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq. pointed to Saddam Hussein’s usage of the prison, and particularly made note of his “rape rooms.”

Well–once again, Americans have gone one better–from rape rooms to rape blocks!

In the prison known as State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Pittsburgh, those convicted of sex crimes were targeted for beatings, rapes–or both. Sometimes by prisoners, sometimes by guards- -sometimes by both.

Boy–talk about ‘corrections!’

Some men filed institutional grievances (or prison internal complaints) which were invariably dismissed or simply ignored. Other tried to file time-consuming actions in court, where most fell into black holes.

It is worthy to note that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the notorious and vicious slaughter at Attica–a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.

Attica was supposed to be the bellwether of change to American corrections. But, if anything, it shows the limits of liberal reforms, which can be washed away in another season.

Limits were promised by liberal politicians. Years later, neo-liberals would push more restrictive laws that shuttered courtrooms from prisoners, and made civil suits an obstacle course.

They joined with conservatives to build the prison-industrial-complex into the monster that it is today (boy–talk about bipartisanship!).

In many ways, they made the scandals which we see today–and the rape blocks–possible.


Guard charged with abusing 20 inmates at SCI Pittsburgh

From: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Paula Ward
Sept 27, 2011

A corrections officer at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh was arrested this morning on charges that he assaulted — both sexually and physically — more than 20 inmates at the prison.

Harry Nicoletti, 60, of Coraopolis, is charged with 92 counts of institutional sexual assault, official oppression, terroristic threats and simple assault.

The investigation has been ongoing for several months by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office. More arrests are expected, according to the DA’s office.

The charges were filed based on testimony of inmates and prison staff before the county investigating grand jury.

On Thursday, a federal lawsuit was filed against eight corrections officers and the DOC, alleging a “common plan and conspiracy to sexually abuse, physically abuse and mentally abuse inmates who were homosexual,” along with those who were transgender or convicted of sex crimes.

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