MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - You're not supposed to have cell phones, drugs, or unauthorized cigarettes in jail, but Shelby County inmates do have all of that and not because of a high-tech smuggling ring, the contraband is simply tossed over the fence. The man in charge of Shelby County Corrections is working to fix the problem.
It all began with an investigation in April, when several videos popped up on inmate Martez Wright's Facebook page. The videos were taken with a contraband cell phone inside prison walls.
The Director of Shelby County Corrections Center, James Coleman, says, "If a person can sneak a cell phone in by whatever method they can also sneak a weapon in and that's where it really concerns me."
Coleman says, in a way, Wright did the county a favor by posting his videos to Facebook from behind prison walls. Coleman says, "I didn't like the way it portrayed us but at the same token we were able to learn and become a little better because of it."
The County launched an investigation that uncovered seven inmates in possession of cell phones. It also identified a severe staffing shortage. But that's not all, one of the biggest problems the prison's having is its proximity to the Greenline bike path. Public access is just a few feet away where it's not hard for someone to slip something through, or throw something over the fence.
Bicyclist Terry Younger says he never paid attention to how close the fence was, he laughed when he realized it was just feet away. "I've never seen that happen myself, but I wouldn't doubt it."
Coleman says, "We've had cell phones, chargers, batteries, tobacco... marijuana, drugs, actually pills," he continued, "How many places do you know where the public can actually walk up to the gate?"
Because of Wright's cell block confessions the County's getting more guards and more security cameras hoping to keep everything where it belongs.
Coleman hopes to have the new cameras in place by September and 45 more officers by October.