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PA Prison Investigated for Corruption; Biggest Shake Down Ever

In September, 1995, several prisoners from the 3,490 man Graterford state prison testified before the Pennsylvania senate judiciary committee about corruption at the state prison. The prisoners testified that prison officials accepted bribes typically between $100 and $300 to expunge prisoners' record of infractions. The testifying prisoners, Jonathan Brown, Jerry Logan and Frank Hannon, testified about corruption on the part of specific Graterford employees, including those who smuggled drugs and exchanged favors for sex. They estimated that at least 20% of the 1,100 Graterford staff were involved in illegal activities.

Illegal drugs are rampant at the prison. Since 1989 at least 13 prison guards, including three in 1995, have been charged with drug smuggling. In the same period 11 Graterford prisoners have died of drug overdoses. All of the testifying prisoners said they had been threatened and harassed for testifying. Brown testified that guards had told him they would kill him if he testified. Senator Michael O'Pake said "The picture they painted was one of a cesspool of corruption." Pennsylvania DOC officials had no comment on the hearings.

The FBI has announced it is investigating the allegations of drug smuggling at Graterford. On October 24, 1995, 650 state and federal law enforcement officials descended on Graterford to conduct a massive shakedown on the 1,700 acre prison. The raid was characterized as the largest of its type in US prison history. State Corrections Commissioner Martin Horn said that one third of all drug sales in the state prison system occur at Graterford. "At some point it began to spin out of control," he said. Presumably it began spinning with the first senate hearing.

Shortly after the raid began the deputy prison superintendent, and chief of all guards announced their retirement. Two captains, four lieutenants and a hearing examiner were temporarily transferred pending investigation. The search uncovered a few ounces of marijuana, cocaine and heroin and dozens of weapons.

Post Intelligencer, October 25, 1995.

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