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Correctional officers, inmates' families accused of sneaking in phones

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Termination records obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team show 17 state employees were fired in 2011, accused of bringing contraband into prisons, including cell phones.

Those same records show the vast majority of people busted for bringing in contraband were family and friends of inmates.

The Channel 4 I-Team obtained the termination records after we found more than 100 inmates in state prisons posting photos and video of themselves on Facebook while behind bars.

The photos showed inmates claiming to be using drugs, smoking, hoarding food and joking around.

As a result of our investigation, 70 inmates were disciplined and some could face criminal charges.

The termination records don't often detail what the contraband was that got the prison employees fired, but in five of the 17 cases, the employees were specifically accused of bringing in cell phones or cell phone chargers.

"I think from time to time, we have staff that makes wrong decisions," said Tony Parker, assistant commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Correction.

The Channel 4 I-Team found the most recent correctional officer fired, Josh Jackson, was assigned to what's called Strike Force 3.

They are an elite tactical group who seeks out contraband inside the Riverbend State Prison.

Jackson's termination letter shows on March 1, after a random search on vehicles in Riverbend's parking lot, an empty phone container and marijuana wrapped in tape were found inside Jackson's car.

The letter states that in discussions with an internal investigation, Jackson admitted to having met a female family member of an inmate at Riverbend and received a package of pills from her.

The letter also reads that while it cannot be proven that Jackson brought the phone onto the compound and gave it to an inmate, he was still in violation of the state's policies.

"If they make that choice to deal with an inmate, they are terminated and prosecuted," Parker said.

The Channel 4 I-Team repeatedly attempted to contact Jackson for comment but was unsuccessful.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said the agency passed along Jackson's case to the district attorney for possible prosecution, but there is no record of Jackson being indicted.

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