Two correctional officers charged after contraband found in food - - Jackson, MS

Two arrested for tobacco sandwich and pot burritos

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Contraband items found in fast food have led to two correctional officers being charged, following separate searches at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County within a week.

Erling Gresham, 26, and Tamikta Russell, 34, both of Jackson, are being recommended for termination. 

We are told that Gresham bought a 12-inch bread only sandwich, filled it with 2.80 ounces of tobacco and wrapped it with plastic. He told investigators he had intended to give the tobacco to an inmate who had offered him $200 two weeks ago to bring it in. Gresham was charged on Sunday.

According to investigators, Russell was arrested March 26 after she tried to smuggle in not only tobacco, but also marijuana and other contraband in three burritos inside a Tupperware container.

Both were arrested during a routine search when they reported for duty.

"These arrests are a result of the Mississippi Department of Corrections' intensified efforts to reduce contraband items," Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said. "You would be surprised by the different ways in which people try to bring in contraband. That's why we must always be alert and ready.

"Not only are people bringing in illegal items on their persons, but also in their food," Epps continued. "And, they are tossing contraband over the fence, but the recent netting we put up is already proving to be effective."

Officials tell us that Gresham and Russell are each charged with possession of prohibited items by persons other than offenders for possessing tobacco. This conviction carries a maximum one year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both.

We are told that Gresham was still in the Rankin County Jail on a $1,000 bond as of Wednesday afternoon.

Investigators say Russell, who posted a $20,000 bond Friday from the Rankin County jail, also has two other charges, possession of marijuana and introduction of contraband. The 6.40 ounces of tobacco, 48.7 grams of marijuana and other contraband were inside plastic bags concealed in the burritos. 

If convicted under state law on the marijuana possession charge, she faces a maximum $25,000 fine and between three and seven years in prison. We are told that she would not be eligible for probation, parole, a suspended sentence, earned time allowance or any other reduction of sentence.

"While no more arrests are expected in Russell's case, the investigation involving Gresham is ongoing," said Sean K. Smith, director of the Corrections Investigation Division. "Our preliminary investigation shows both Russell and Gresham acted alone when they brought in the contraband, but we are still obviously trying to answer questions in Gresham's case, including finding the inmate who he said asked him to bring in the tobacco." 

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