- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Inmates at an Iowa prison were found in possession of a hammer, four cellphones and hundreds of pills - over-the-counter supplements they’re not allowed to have- in a series of incidents raising questions about security, according to records released Friday.

The contraband discovered last month at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City was more extensive than prison officials previously acknowledged, according to records obtained by The Associated Press showing that four inmates have so far been disciplined.

The leader of the state’s largest public employees union, which represents correctional officers, said the incidents amounted to the biggest security breach he has seen in the last nine years.

“The magnitude of this was huge,” said Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61.

Homan called for Warden Cornell Smith to be fired and accused the Iowa Department of Corrections of trying to keep details from the public. The department last week refused a request for information about the incidents, but reversed course after the AP noted state law requires that certain inmate disciplinary information be public.

Smith didn’t immediately return a message for comment Friday. Department spokesman Fred Scaletta declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

The department announced last month that prison officials had discovered 400 pills containing unknown substances, but withheld that they had already tested positive for cocaine and the painkiller Demerol during a field test by a state trooper. Then, last week Scaletta said additional testing at a crime lab found they were over-the-counter supplements, not narcotics.

Christopher Sanks, an inmate caught with 27 pills, told prison officials they were creatine and whey protein supplements purchased from GNC and smuggled inside. Sanks said the pills were for sale in the yard for $1 apiece, records show.

Smith, the warden, told Sanks the pills and a cellphone he tried to hide in a garbage can were “unauthorized dangerous contraband” and that he would refer the case to a prosecutor to consider charges.

On Sept. 17, two weeks after the pills were discovered, an officer found inmate Brandon Brown trying to break into the wood shop inside the prison’s education building by removing a door from its hinges.

Brown had a hammer, a putty knife and pliers he was not supposed to have, records show. He later showed an officer a hidden compartment inside the wood shop wall that contained a cellphone and iPod - items the records say Brown was trying to retrieve for another inmate.

Aundrey Roberts was found with a cellphone that he and other inmates used to send text messages, make calls outside the prison, take photos and post on Facebook, records show. Smith told Roberts those actions created “a threat to the public and the institution.” Administrative Law Judge Christian Anderson said a stiff sanction was appropriate.

“The seriousness of this matter is also heightened due to the number of major reports for cellphone possession that have occurred recently,” Anderson wrote in a ruling ordering discipline.

Cellphones are considered dangerous contraband under department policy, because they can be used to plot criminal activity with people on the outside.

Another inmate with a cellphone, Kevin McGee, testified in a disciplinary hearing that he bought it inside the facility from another prisoner for $120. An officer found McGee’s phone and charger inside a hollowed-out piece of wood on his bunk bed.

Sanks, Brown, Roberts and McGee lost earned time for good behavior and were placed in disciplinary detention.

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