Dozens arrested as ADOC fights spread of both COVID-19 and contraband

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The ADOC is fighting the spread of COVID-19 in the state prison system while also seeking to eliminate an increase in illegal contraband. (WSFA 12 News file photo)

The Alabama Department of Corrections says even as it has focused its efforts on slowing the spread of COVID-19 through the state’s prison population, it hasn’t eased up on its zero-tolerance policy on contraband.

In fact, ADOC says there’s actually been an increase in attempts to smuggle contraband into its prison facilities despite the suspension of visitors and all non-emergency outside entries because of the pandemic.

ADOC says it has conducted nearly 50 searches over the past three months, uncovering a variety of illegal items such as drugs, cell phones, and weapons. And there have been 26 arrests, to date, including several ADOC employees.

“Criminals have found new and, in some cases, sophisticated means by which to exploit the porous nature of our dilapidated, aging facilities,” said Law Enforcement Services Division Chief Law Enforcement Officer Arnaldo Mercado.

ADOC says between March 18 and June 18 it has arrested 22 people from outside its prisons and four ADOC employees as a result of its investigations. For the year, ADOC says it’s up to 42 arrests, including seven staffers.

Arrests of those unaffiliated with the prisons over the last three months were made at six ADOC facilities. They include one at North Alabama Community Work Center, two each at Bibb Correctional and Ventress Correctional, three each at Elmore Correctional and Fountain Correctional, four at St. Clair Correctional, and seven at Donaldson Correctional.

ADOC says the four staffers arrested during that time period include:

Four ADOC employees have been arrested since March in connection with prison contraband investigations. They include: Valshun Williams (top left), Keandra Lykes (top right), Keaton Gross (bottom left), and Stephanie Golden (bottom right).
Four ADOC employees have been arrested since March in connection with prison contraband investigations. They include: Valshun Williams (top left), Keandra Lykes (top right), Keaton Gross (bottom left), and Stephanie Golden (bottom right). (Source: Alabama Department of Corrections)

Keaton Gross, a 27-year-old plant maintenance worker employed at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. He’s charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and attempt to commit a controlled substance crime. He resigned from his position after eight years with the ADOC.

Keandra Lykes, a 31-year-old correctional steward employed at Frank Lee Community Work Center in Deatsville. She is charged with promoting prison contraband and has since resigned.

Valshun Williams, a 36-year-old correctional officer employed at Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore. He is charged with promoting prison contraband. He resigned from his position after eight years with the ADOC.

Stephanie Golden, a 31-year-old correctional officer employed at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka. She is charged with promoting prison contraband and prohibited activities and has since resigned.

ADOC has also confiscated some 7,100 grams of various drugs and more than 250 weapons and electronic devices during its facility searches over the last three months.

The public can share tips regarding any information they know about an attempt to introduce contraband into state prisons by calling 1-855-WE-R-ADOC (937-2362) or online at http://www.doc.alabama.gov/investigationrequest.

“For anyone who is complicit in these schemes, know this – we are onto you, you will eventually be caught, and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Mercado said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: ADOC has revised the number of staffer arrest from five to four for this report.

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