Five people have recently been charged in connection to a contraband conspiracy ring at Mabel Bassett Prison that dates back to February of 2017.
Investigators said the suspects were busted after a guard noticed two people out in woods. When the correctional officer searched that area a cellphone was found along with two packages.
According to court records, that phone belonged to Joshua Dean Hamilton.
The phone was logged into his Facebook account, and his message indicated he had been communicating with inmates inside Mabel Bassett.
His girlfriend, Summer Asbery, has also been charged in connection to the conspiracy to bring contraband into the prison.
Investigators say she gave Hamilton a ride.
“Anytime you operate a prison, and there are items you don't want people to bring in to it...there is always going to be people that are going to try and bring those items in,” said Oklahoma DOC Communication Manager Matt Elliott.
Court documents state Hamilton confessed to dropping two packages "wrapped in pink and black duct tape" off near Mabel Bassett.
The Pottawatomie County District Attorney said soon after, inmates Midiyuana Huber, Kaleigh Fryer and Nichole Dunford were connected to the case.
The contraband packages contained cellphones and tobacco.
“It's a big problem. It's a problem that every prison system in the world faces,” says Elliott.
In 2017, 6,873 cellphones were seized by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
So far in 2018, that number is 4,168.
While drugs can be a major threat, DOC staff says cellphones can be just as dangerous items in the wrong hands. Adding, it causes violence among inmates and in turn prison workers.
“Somebody can use those to conduct drug transactions in the outside, ordering a hit on somebody, and they can use it to harass victims,” says Elliott.
Asbery and Hamilton pleaded guilty just a few months ago in Oklahoma County to seminal crimes.
Court documents reveal they were connected to another contraband operation involving meth at the Oklahoma County Jail.
Elliott says DOC has a deep tissue scanners to search inmates, specially trained dogs and other devices to control what comes into the facility. However, he said what they really need is more eyes on the inmates.
“We've got about a 33 percent correctional officer shortage statewide. The more correctional officers we have, the easier it is to fight contraband,” said Elliott.
If given the maximum sentence for this new charge, some inmates could possibly spend life in prison because of previous felony convictions.