JACKSON — Two correctional officers and a 65-year-old mother visiting her son have been arrested in separate Mississippi Department of Corrections’ investigations since Sunday.
Ciarra Harley and Patricia Bennett-Armstrong, both Jackson residents and employees at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Rankin County, are facing disciplinary action in addition to criminal charges because of their alleged misconduct.
Harley, 27, is accused of having a sexual relationship since August 2012 with a probationer under supervision in Neshoba County. She was arrested today at CMCF and charged with the crime of sexual activity between law enforcement personnel and prisoners. A conviction carries a maximum five years in prison, a maximum $5,000 fine, or both.
Harley was taken to the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond and awaits an initial court appearance.
Bennett-Armstrong, 47, was arrested early Tuesday morning at CMCF after a large amount of tobacco was found in her vehicle, investigators with the Corrections Investigation Division (CID) said. She is charged with possession of prohibited items by persons other than offenders, which is punishable by not more than one-year imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or both. She was booked at the Rankin County Adult Detention Center and posted a $1,000 bond.
“Our job is to uphold the law, not to break it,” Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said. ”Regrettably, however, sometimes we have a small number of officers accused of criminal activities. I have zero tolerance for any proven criminal wrongdoing.”
Like Bennett-Armstrong, Gloria Edwards of Louisville also was caught allegedly planning to give contraband to an inmate. She was arrested Sunday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman (MSP) and charged with introduction of contraband and conspiracy to introduce contraband.
“People apparently are still not getting the word that the MDOC is serious about stopping contraband from being smuggled into our prisons,” Epps said. “We have already arrested several people in the last several months. I hate to see anyone’s mother locked up, especially someone the age of Ms. Edwards, but if you want to take a chance on getting past our security measures, you also should be prepared to go to jail if you are caught.”
Edwards had several pills concealed on her body, investigators said. Drugs, including crystal methamphetamine, also were found during a subsequent search of her vehicle. She was taken to the Sunflower County Jail in Indianola. Her bond was set at $5,000 per charge.
Edwards was at the prison to see her 38-year-old son, James Edwards III, Inmate No. L3440, but was arrested before the visit occurred. James Edwards is serving seven years for cocaine possession in Winston County.
Introduction of contraband into a correctional facility is punishable by three to 15 years in prison, a maximum $25,000 fine, or both. Conspiracy to introduce contraband carries up to a $5,000 fine, five years imprisonment, or both.
“Who was the intended recipient of the contraband found with the arrests of Bennett-Armstrong and Edwards is a question CID investigators are attempting to answer in ongoing investigations,” said Sean K. Smith.