BOISE -- A Caldwell woman could face up to five years in prison after jail officials say she tried to sneak iPods and a cell phone to inmates.
Danielle Pennington, 31, is accused of using a box with a secret compartment to get the electronics and chargers into the Idaho Correctional Center in November. One inmate, 25-year-old Devon Elmore, has also been charged in connection with the attempt, and charges are pending against three more people.
Investigators say Pennington taped the devices beneath a false bottom of a box filled with video games and a PlayStation console that were being donated to prisoners from a local church.
Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said cell phones are prohibited in Idaho's jails and prisons. They are among the most sought after items of contraband, selling secretly behind bars for as much as $400 for a disposable phone and up to $1,200 for a smart phone.
Cell phones are banned to cut down on inmate's ability to conduct criminal activity from inside the prison walls, Ray said. Prison officials worry they could be used by drug traffickers, sex offenders or gang members to get around security protocols or even contact victims.
Clandestine communication and contraband traffic create problems not just in our prisons, but problems that can spill over into our communities, Ray wrote in a statement.
Likewise, iPods aren't allowed because some have Internet access.
Ray said prisoners can buy one type of music player from the prison commissary. But because IDOC bans songs containing hate speech or violent, pornographic or gang-related themes, officials want to be able to keep tabs on what inmates are listening to - something that is impossible when music devices are smuggled in.
By contrast, Ray said, the PlayStation and games mailed to the prison are all legal, and were given to inmates in general population. That's the doing of private prison company Corrections Corp. of America, which runs ICC. IDOC's policy is different - the department does not allow video games, Ray said.
CCA's contract with Idaho will end June 30, and the state has already announced that it will not be renewed in the wake of lawsuits and staffing scandals.
Pennington was linked to the contraband after guards found the items inside the prison and contacted the Ada County Sheriff's Office. A warrant was issued for her arrest Tuesday, and she turned herself in that afternoon.
The woman was charged with felony of introduction of major contraband into correctional facilities. She is currently free on a $10,000 bond, and is scheduled to appear in court May 27.