ST. CLAIR COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Prison officials found rounds of ammunition hidden in the St. Clair County Correctional Facility in Springville while searching the facility after handguns and drugs were tossed over the fence last week.
Three people were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle two handguns, drugs and several cell phones into the prison last Wednesday, Oct. 7. The contraband was thrown over the prison fence, according to Alabama Department of Corrections spokesperson Bob Horton.
Horton confirmed on Wednesday, Oct. 14 that the prison was thoroughly searched and officials found ammunition concealed in the prison. Prison officials are not releasing what type of ammunition or handguns were found, citing the ongoing investigation.
"The attempt to smuggle two handguns inside the prison, and finding ammunition concealed inside the facility, is obviously a serious concern," Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said in a news release.
"DOC is conducting an ongoing investigation to determine if the ammunition is tied to last week's arrests, and how and when it was introduced into the facility," Dunn added.
At this time, Department of Corrections investigators do not believe any prison employees were involved.
Anthony Little, 19, Drevan Jones, 19 and Tanie Nicole Wright, 36, all of Birmingham, were arrested shortly after the items were tossed over the fence and charged with promoting illegal prison contraband.
Tanie Nicole Wright initially identified herself as Alexis McNight, 31, but the St. Clair County Sheriff's confirmed her true identity in a background check.
On Thursday, Oct. 8, ADOC released the following statement about the incident:
"Alabama Department of Corrections officials report that three people were arrested on Wednesday for attempting to smuggle contraband into the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville.
At approximately 4 p.m. on Wednesday, a corrections officer manning the prison tower reported a suspicious vehicle moving toward the prison's security fence. From the tower, the officer observed one of the suspects inside the vehicle toss an object over the fence.
The officer immediately alerted the prison's security team that responded and secured several unmarked packages inside the prison fence. The suspects attempt to flee ended when they were detained by the prison's K-9 unit and St. Clair County Sheriff's deputies. DOC Intelligence and Investigations Division made the arrest.
Inspecting the packages for contraband, prison officials discovered two handguns, drugs and several cell phones. The prison was placed on lockdown as a precaution.
Arrested were Anthony Little and Drevan Jones, both 19, of Birmingham, and 31-year-old Alexis McKnight, also of Birmingham. All three suspects were charged with a felony of promoting illegal prison contraband. Following their arrest, the suspects were turned over to the St. Clair County Sheriff's office.
Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn credits the arrest to the comprehensive and professional response by corrections officers and staff.
'The arrest and confiscation of the contraband is indicative of our officers' professional approach to their job, and working together as a team,' Dunn said. 'Although DOC is understaffed and faces budgetary challenges, public safety and the safety of our officers and inmates is the department's foremost priority. The successful outcome of this incident makes that point clear.'
DOC is conducting an investigation with assistance from county and state law enforcement. A Corrections Emergency Response Team is also assisting investigators with a complete search of the facility. The prison remains on lockdown until investigators and the team have completed the search."
WBRC began receiving multiple tips about the incident on Wednesday, Oct. 7 and we've been working to confirm the information since then.
St. Clair Correctional Facility houses 1,300 inmates and was the site of an April brawl involving 30 inmates in which one correctional officer was injured.
That fight came after a series of violent incidents inside the prison, including six homicides in 36 months, according to Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative.
The prison has been under intense scrutiny by advocacy groups, including EJI, which filed a 2014 lawsuit alleging inadequate security and unsafe conditions for inmates and staff.
ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn hosted a media tour of St. Clair Correctional in September in which he said staffing had been beefed up to 67 percent after the April incident and that violent incidents were trending down.
When asked about how the prison is working to secure the perimeter and prevent contraband from entering the prison, Dunn said that is a challenge at every prison in Alabama.
"When we are understaffed, it makes it very difficult for our correctional officers to cover all of the areas that they're supposed to cover," Dunn said.