MIAMI COUNTY, Ind. - A food services worker at the Miami Correctional Facility was caught smuggling cigarettes for an inmate.
Christina Layman was arrested on charges of trafficking with an inmate. Court records show another officer saw her handing a package to an inmate.
The officer also found another package in the kitchen. When she was interviewed, records state Layman admitted to kissing the inmate. She also told authorities "It was just tobacco. It was only tobacco."
County sheriff's met Wednesday to talk about jail construction. Many said they see trafficking issues in their jails between employees and inmates. Monroe County Sheriff, Brad Swain said cigarettes are a gateway to other illegal behaviors.
"You get a staff member to smuggle in cigarettes and then you own them," he said. Swain added, "while it just may be cigarettes to them, how long is it before they’re providing sexual favors or something like that or smuggling in a weapon or more dangerous drugs."
Monroe County Jail Commander Sam Crowe said it's not surprising and it's easy for employees to smuggle items into the jail. This this case, Layman, an Aramark supervisor, hit the cigarette package in her underwear.
"Our jobs are so fast paced that it’s hard to watch every officer," Crowe said.
In Hamilton County, Sheriff Mark Brown said officers go through a roll-call procedure before beginning work. While they aren't searched, they are asked if they have any illicit items on them.
While this is happening in jails, many counties are struggling to hire and retain quality officers. Crowe, from Monroe County, said while they down several jail officers, they would rather be short staffed than hire people who might not be a good fit.
Hamilton County Jail Commander, Cpt. Jason Sloderbeck said they have constant turnover. He said officers who may seem like a good fit initially, turn out to be unqualified.
"We get a lot of early 20's employees that really just don’t have a lot of knowledge about law enforcement, let alone corrections because corrections is a different world," said Cpt. Sloderbeck.
The Hamilton County Jail is understaffed by about 4 full-time officers.
That's because the county recently took on the responsibility of hiring officers for the juvenile detention center. Many part-time officers were transferred to full-time positions there and the county hasn't been able to keep up with demand and turnover. Another reason is that many officers leave to pursue careers in law enforcement. Many sheriff's said jail corrections is a pathway to a successful career as a deputy or police officer.
Officers are required to complete a 40 hour training course that includes ethics. State Jail Services Coordinator, Bill Wilson, said many officers still feel stress and pressure when they get to the real-world of working inside a jail.
"Part of that stress is inmates saying will you bring me a cigarette, will you bring me a cell phone, and that pressure builds," Wilson said.
Last week, The Indiana Department of Corrections announced pay raises for officers. New correctional officer's salaries will go from $14.16 per hour to $16.00 per hour. Non-supervisory correctional officers will see a $1.00 per hour raise. IDOC Commissioner, Robert Carter said the increase is an effort to decrease staff turnover and boost recruitment.
In a statement, Carter said:
"I hope this is just our first step towards reducing staff turnover and providing a better trained and more experienced work force, dedicated to insuring the safety of everyone who works, volunteers, visits or resides within a Department facility."
Average salaries for a county jail officer are between $25,000 and $35,000 per year. State jail experts said many counties are working to increase those salaries to stay competitive. Those interested in applying for correctional officer positions should visit their county website or the state website by clicking here.