Alabama prison raid: 2 officers arrested, 120 makeshift weapons found, drugs and cellphones confiscated

Published 9:56 am Thursday, March 5, 2020

Alabama corrections officials have arrested two people and confiscated more than 120 makeshift weapons, illegal cellphones and a pound of drugs after a recent contraband raid on one of its prisons.

The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) announced the results of its recent raid at Easterling Correctional Facility (Easterling) in Clio, Alabama, on February 25, as well as additional arrests made in line with the Department’s zero-tolerance policy on promoting illegal contraband.

With the support of more than 200 officials from cooperating county and state law enforcement agencies, the major contraband search produced 120 makeshift weapons, 42 contraband cell phones, 482 grams of synthetic drugs, and 172 pills or suboxone strips. The operation, which took place over roughly nine hours, was the eighth conducted by the ADOC’s Operations Division and Law Enforcement Services Division (LESD) since early 2019.

“The success of the Operation Restore Order at Easterling Correctional Facility, in addition to several arrests made, reinforces my Department’s unwavering commitment to eliminating illegal contraband and rooting out the sources of its entry into our facilities,” said ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn. “The success of these crucial, ongoing operations is dependent upon collaborative preparation and effective execution by the Department’s staff and partnering law enforcement agencies across the state. I am thankful for their hard work and dedication.”

Arnaldo Mercado, chief of ADOC’s LESD, led the planning and execution of this complex operation. He was joined by LESD agents, correctional K-9 drug units, and Correctional Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Cooperating agencies, including the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, Department of Natural Resources, Game Warden Division, and Russell County Sheriff’s Department, provided additional resources in support of the strategic endeavor.

Following the successful Operation Restore Order raid at Easterling, law enforcement agents from ADOC’s LESD also arrested two ADOC security personnel and two free-world individuals on charges related to promoting illegal contraband.

Basic Correctional Officer (BCO) Terrence Tolbert, 39, of Brewton, was arrested on Monday, February 24, at approximately 10:00 p.m. after an ADOC LESD agent investigated an allegation of contraband possession at Fountain Correctional Facility. The agent discovered that Officer Tolbert was in possession of marijuana, crystal methamphetamine, weapons, electronics, and alcohol. Officer Tolbert was arrested on charges of trafficking, promoting prison contraband, possession of a controlled substance, and unlawful possession of marijuana. Following his arrest, Officer Tolbert was transported to Escambia County Jail. He immediately resigned his position following the arrest.

Tenishia Michelle Witherspoon, 32, of Birmingham, a Correctional Cubicle Operator (CCO), was arrested on Thursday, February 27, at approximately 1:30 p.m. after a member of the LESD K-9 Bureau alerted on her vehicle during a contraband interdiction detail in the Donaldson Correctional Facility parking lot. Witherspoon is facing unlawful possession of marijuana charges and has resigned her position with the Department.

Jeffery Burton of Louisville, Kentucky, and Alicia Keaton of Benton, Kentucky, were arrested on Saturday, February 22, at Tutwiler Prison for Women on charges of unlawful possession of marijuana. At approximately 3 p.m., a K-9 officer alerted on the vehicle driven by Burton, where a search of the vehicle produced approximately one ounce of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Following their arrests, Burton and Alicia Keaton were transported to the Elmore County Jail.

“Let this serve as a stern warning to anyone considering conspiring with inmates to introduce contraband into our facilities – you will be discovered, and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Dunn said. “In addition to being illegal, the introduction of contraband by internal or external parties is in direct conflict with my Department’s commitment to reducing recidivism and promoting rehabilitation, and we will continue to take decisive and swift action against those responsible in order to promote the well-being and safety of our staff and inmates.”