A Screven County employee has been arrested by the Sylvania Police Department for giving a contraband cell phone to an inmate housed at the Screven County Correctional Institute.
Hannah Reeves Derriso, 36 of Sylvania, was booked into the Screven County Jail on January 25, 2023. According to public records obtained by TGV News, investigators sought warrants on Derriso on January 25th for the acts involving the cell phone for the inmate, which was reportedly sent off for a forensic download at the beginning of the investigation. Derriso is the Elections Supervisor for the Screven County Elections Office, which is housed in the Screven County Courthouse in Sylvania. She also writes for The Sylvania Times.
As part of an ongoing agreement between the Georgia Department of Corrections and Screven County, Screven County Correctional Institute (SCCI) provides a host of inmate work details to Screven County offices and buildings grounds, including the courthouse.
SCCI is not the county-run jail operated by Sheriff Mike Kile, but instead is a 125-inmate medium security institution for male offenders. The facility is located on Rocky Ford Road and is run by Warden Steve Scroggins.
Georgia Law on Providing Contraband
Under Georgia law, providing a cell phone to an inmate is a felony offense.
Depending on the code sections for which an individual is convicted, mandatory sentences behind bars may apply.
Under O.C.G.A. § 42-5-18(b), the charge Derriso faces, it is unlawful for any person to “obtain for, to procure for, or to give to an inmate a gun, pistol, or any other weapon; any intoxicating liquor; amphetamines, biphetamines, or any other hallucinogenic drugs or other drugs, regardless of the amount; any telecommunications device; or any other article or item without the authorization of the warden or superintendent or his or her designee.”
Any person found guilty of this offense would be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of two years but not more than ten years. Additionally, the court would be barred from suspending or probating the mandatory minimum sentence of two years, meaning it would be required that the individual serve time in a state prison.
Also worth noting, in 2017, the Georgia General Assembly amended the law to make no distinction in punishment if the inmate to whom contraband was provided was inside or outside the facility at the time of the provision of contraband. Meaning, the offense is the same irrespective of where the phone was provided to the individual.
Under O.C.G.A § 42-5-16, it is unlawful for any person to trade or traffic with, buy from, or sell any article to an inmate without the knowledge and consent of the warden, superintendent, or the designated representative in charge. While this offense is still a felony, it carries a sentence of one to five years and no mandatory minimum.
Dangerous Contraband Problems Across Georgia
Cell phone contraband in Georgia prisons have frequented news headlines as cell phones in the possession of inmates have facilitated the operations of criminal enterprises. In southeast Georgia in particular, contraband cell phones have assisted in the assaults on and attempted murders of corrections officers, murders-for-hire on innocent members of the public, and dozens of other criminal acts accompanied by drugs and violence.