Two more Alvin S. Glenn officers arrested amid crackdown on contraband, phones in jail

The back-to-back arrests of two guards at the Richland County jail has highlighted the ongoing struggle to contain contraband flowing into the troubled facility. It also highlights an even messier problem: policing relationships between guards and inmates.

On Thursday, Richland County Sheriff’s Department investigators were informed that detention center officer Zavius Calloway was engaged in possible misconduct, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies say Calloway admitted he and an unnamed detainee were roommates and former co-workers. The two had continued “engagement” while the former roommate was housed at the jail.

Calloway was allegedly aware that his roommate had a cellphone inside of the jail, which he used to send Calloway money through Cash App, a digital payment app.

The day before, detention center officer Ja’la Gladden was arrested following an eight-day investigation into her relationship with an inmate, according to deputies. An incident report obtained from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department stated that the investigation began following an “internal report” from the jail.

Deputies say that the investigation revealed Gladden had provided a cellphone for the inmate she was in a relationship with. The officer communicated with the male inmate on a regular basis from her personal cellphone.

“Gladden never disclosed the nature of her relationship with the inmate to the jail and did not notify the jail of the contraband cell phone,” according to deputies.

Calloway was charged with misconduct in office and two counts of furnishing contraband. Gladden was similarly charged with misconduct in office and one count of furnishing contraband.

They are the tenth and eleventh detention center officers arrested so far this year. In comparison, in 2023, nine detention center officers were arrested and charged with misconduct in the course of their duties.

“It’s appalling to see the level of deception that individuals will utilize to compromise the security and safety of the facility and those who work and are cared for there,” Richland County Administrator Leonardo Brown said in a statement on Jan. 29 announcing strengthened safety measures at the jail.

In the statement, county officials cited security reasons in declining to provide information about the “enhanced and ongoing” contraband mitigation efforts.

But, Brown said, “the County’s actions are indicative of the increased contraband reduction measures.”

Asked Friday about the increase in arrests of staff over 2023, Richland County spokesperson Susan O’Cain said that it was “positive” as it demonstrated the county administration’s efforts towards cleaning up the culture at the jail.

“We have been very open about our efforts to improve conditions of confinement at the facility. As we stated previously, any sort of misconduct in office will not be tolerated and we are cracking down,” O’Cain said.

Of the eleven guards arrested so far this year, eight have been charged with furnishing contraband. A review of the incident reports and statements from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department indicates a thriving black market for drugs, cigarettes and other contraband inside of the jail, with much of the communication and coordination being arranged through contraband cellphones.

According to the reports:

On Feb. 12, Shatara Smith was charged with hiding bags of pills in drink cups and in a Tupperware container of pasta salad.

On Jan. 27, Consuela Porch was found with cigarettes and three vapes hidden inside of a Styrofoam cup. Porch allegedly used her smart watch to communicate with inmates inside of the jail to arrange deliveries of contraband.

A nurse, Jakiera Day, was charged with hiding bricks of marijuana inside of a cracker box, and a search revealed that she was allegedly in possession of medication from the jail and notes to inmates.

Incident reports accuse other guards of having inappropriate contact with inmates. One guard, Donisha Grey, allegedly made 65 calls to an inmate between June 2023 and January 2024. Another, Antiona Walker, was accused of delivering a DoorDash meal to an inmate.

According to Hayden Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina who studies prisons system, inappropriate relationships with inmates and smuggling degrade conditions for both inmates and employees at jails. “These things can permeate a culture, and once they get in there and it becomes an easy pathway, through contraband and technology, it’s hard to stop.”

Where in the past drugs like cocaine were the most sought after contraband, today it is technology, Smith says. Giving an inmate a cellphone also gives them the capacity to facilitate the introduction of more contraband into a prison or jail.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections has waged its own war on cellphones, investing in everything from netting to prevent drones from dropping cellphones into prison yards, to a multi-million dollar system that allows prison officials to selectively disable contraband cellular devices.

But employees are often the weak link in preventing contraband. While pay is rising, a level one detention center officer at Alvin S. Glenn makes $36,500 a year. They can triple or quadruple that by dealing contraband, Smith said.

Guards can also be motivated to bring in contraband due to pressure or relationships with inmates that pre-existed or were developed inside the jail. One unusual feature of jails in South Carolina, Smith highlighted, was the disproportionate number of female guards.

“It’s not always a sexual relationships; they can be more like aunties or grandmothers to the inmates,” Smith said. “And it’s a slippery slope from bringing in innocent contraband like sweets or snacks to then bringing in cellphones and drugs.”

The quality and level of staffing has long been identified as a major problem at the troubled jail. In an announcement launching an investigation into the jail, the U.S. Department of Justice identified staffing as a leading “concern” that drove violence and a breakdown in conditions.

Last April, then-interim jail Director Crayman Harvey, who was appointed permanent director last August, identified a need to attract better staff in order to change the jail’s culture.

Violence has continued at the jail. On Feb. 15, inmate Jabriel Jones was charged with assaulting an officer after he refused to get back in his cell. Jones was able to remove the officer’s taser and attempted to use it against her before pushing her, causing her to hit her head on a beam. ones also punched her several times in the face, according to authorities. The officer was only saved when three inmates ran over and helped subdue Jones, preventing him from assaulting the guard further.