FORT ANN — Four women were arrested Sunday at Washington Correctional Facility after staff at the prison caught them trying to bring contraband that included weapons and synthetic marijuana into the prison, arrests that came as the state changed practices to crack down on those who try to bring illegal items into state prisons.
State corrections staff who were assisted by a dog trained to detect drugs intercepted ceramic razor blades and the illegal chemical known as synthetic marijuana that four visitors were trying to get to inmates, according to State Police. An increase in search dogs being used at prisons is among the changes that have been phased in, according to state officials.
Charged with felony counts of promoting prison contraband and misdemeanor criminal possession of a controlled substance were:
- Patricia E. Patterson, 52, of Far Rockaway, who was accused of bringing multiple ceramic razor blades and synthetic marijuana into the medium-security prison.
- Naomi M. Machado, 23 of New York City, accused of bringing synthetic marijuana into the prison.
- Coretta M. Bones, 51, of Niagara Falls, accused of bringing synthetic marijuana into the prison.
- Yvelka A. Suriel-Cacaras, 31, of Buffalo, accused of bringing synthetic marijuana into the prison.
All four were sent to Washington County Jail pending prosecution, and only Bones had been released as of Friday.
The arrests come amid a crackdown by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision on contraband being brought into prisons by visitors. It began in 2017, and has included the use of dogs and technology to intercept drugs and dangerous items before they get to inmates. One employee at Washington Correctional was arrested in 2018 as well.
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It has resulted in more than a dozen arrests at the two prisons in Fort Ann over the past year, including at least three others this spring and summer and one on July 6, the vast majority of them women. Washington County prosecutors typically seek state prison sentences for the offenders as well.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said his office takes prison contraband cases seriously in light of the problems that weapons and drugs can cause for facility staff.
“From time to time we see a spike in these arrests. We get a fairly steady flow, but four or five in a weekend is unusual,” Jordan said.
A spokesperson for DOCCS said the agency has taken a number of steps to lessen the contraband entering prisons that include:
- Expanded the internal Office of Special Investigations by hiring outside investigators and partnering with outside agencies.
- Developed and implemented new training for newly hired civilian staff and increased the frequency of several trainings.
- Installed fixed cameras at Attica and have nearly completed the project at Clinton. The department plans to expand fixed cameras to all maximum-security facilities.
- Deployed body cameras at Clinton, Albion, Bedford Hills, Great Meadow and Taconic.
- Invested in technology, such as the new, highly sensitive “Cellsense” metal detectors, infra-red detectors and installed rounds tracker equipment to track security rounds.
- Nearly doubled the number of canines used for drug detection and interdiction.
- Implemented new protocols statewide for all staff who work correctional facilities, including more scheduled metal detector searches and the issuance of clear bags that are provided to staff and are required to transport their personal items in and out of the facilities, and established a list of allowable items that staff may carry into a facility.
- Updated security protocols dealing with the assignment and search of living quarters and cell integrity checks.
- The department has instituted unannounced facility staff compliance inspections conducted by DOCCS inspectors.