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Corrections officer jailed for smuggling phone into prison

A corrections officer lost his job and his freedom after he took a $250 bribe to smuggle a cellular phone to an inmate.

Romell Rolle hid a Samsung Galaxy A01 phone in a bowl of food with the intention of delivering the contraband to an inmate in medium security.

Rolle, who had worked as a corrections officer for five years, pleaded guilty to taking a prohibited item into the prison before his trial began before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt yesterday.

Prosecuting attorney Sergeant 3605 Samantha Miah told the court that Rolle, 26, reported for duty at the prison around 5 a.m. on April 27, 2021.

Principal Corrections Officer Godwin Taylor, who was manning the security checkpoint along with Corrections Officer Charles Coleby, noticed that Rolle was carrying a foil-covered bowl.

Taylor said Rolle became “visibly nervous and started to shake” when he told him that he would have to remove the foil and replace it with Saran wrap.

When Taylor asked Rolle if he was OK, he reportedly replied that he had been up all night.

Suspicious about Rolle’s behavior, Taylor ordered him to hand over the bowl. Taylor saw a portion of the phone jutting out of the food when he removed the foil wrapping, Miah said.

Rolle admitted that he’d been paid to smuggle the phone into the prison after Taylor and Coleby found $267 on him during a search, Miah said.

As a result, police were called in.

When interviewed by Sergeant 947 Gomez, Rolle claimed that a woman he didn’t know had paid him $250 to take the phone to an unidentified inmate.

Rolle’s attorney, Ciji Curry-Smith, asked the court not to impose a prison sentence.

She reasoned that Rolle had already lost his job and forfeited his benefits and had been humiliated by his arrest.

According to Curry-Smith, the married father of one broke the law because he was “financially strapped”.

In passing sentence, Ferguson-Pratt said the court had “zero tolerance for this behavior”.

However, Ferguson-Pratt said the offense attracted a maximum penalty of three months in prison. 

She said, “Perhaps this is one of the laws that need to be reformed.”

Ferguson-Pratt said, “I must send a clear message to would-be offenders that this type of conduct is unacceptable; it cannot be tolerated.”

The magistrate said most people had run low on cash at some point in their lives, but this could “never be a reason to embark on a criminal enterprise”.

She expressed amazement that Rolle had put a $250 value on his career.

Ferguson-Pratt sentenced Rolle to eight weeks in prison. He has to pay a $600 fine before the completion of his sentence to avoid spending an additional four weeks behind bars.

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