How one corrections officer is helping to end the threat of contraband cell phones in prison

For most of his adult life, Robert Johnson had been an officer with the Florida Department of Corrections. Starting out working in one of the toughest prisons in the state, Johnson quickly proved that he had what it takes to do some of the most challenging tasks in the prison system.

 

Over the course of 15 years, Johnson continued to go above and beyond in the line of duty. He was steadily promoted up through the ranks of the corrections system until he ended up on the prestigious SERT team, which stands for Special Emergency Response Team, the group of elite officers who are called on to handle the riskiest and most dangerous situations that occur at Florida’s maximum security prisons.

 

As part of his job on the SERT team, Johnson was routinely tasked with conducting random searches on prisoners’ cells. On one occasion, Johnson uncovered a package. When he opened it in the prison’s special evidence room, he discovered a large quantity of a powder. Tests later confirmed that it was nearly pure heroin, with a likely street value well in excess of $50,000. Johnson knew that the actual value of such a large quantity of drugs inside of the prison itself may have easily exceeded a quarter million dollars.

 

The drugs were confiscated and booked as evidence. However, the inmate who was caught with the heroin was neither its owner nor its intended destination, he was merely a so-called drug mule, who may have been holding the drugs as a consequence of being extorted.

 

The real destination was one of the prison’s powerful gang leaders. Word quickly got out on the yard that Johnson had been the officer conducting the raid. Over the years, Johnson had gained the reputation for being someone who would never take a bribe, no matter what the stakes. This was part of what had allowed him to move up the ranks so quickly. The gang leader or shot caller, as they are known in prison, knew that the heroin was likely lost forever, and with it went $250,000 in profits.

 

This put Johnson at grave risk. But he was not easily deterred. He continued going about his life normally until, one morning, just as he was getting ready for work, a gunman broke down his front door and shot Johnson six times at nearly point-blank range. Miraculously, Johnson survived. But he has been required to undergo more than 30 surgeries and still lives in nearly constant pain.

 

As it turns out, the gang leader had ordered a hit on Johnson using a contraband cell phone that had been smuggled into the prison by another inmate. Today, Johnson travels the country, helping prisons to adopt Securus Technologies’ Wireless Containment System, which can totally eliminate contraband cell phones from prisons.

 

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