Guard arrested for sneaking contraband to inmates

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Jail administrator also no longer employed

By Reece Murphy

A Lancaster County Detention Center guard has been charged Monday with supplying marijuana, cell phones and other contraband to prisoners.
Christopher Paul Sweet, 33, of Fort Mill, was arrested Monday on warrants that accused him of furnishing contraband to a county prisoner and misconduct in office, sheriff’s spokesman Doug Barfield said Wednesday.
Sweet’s arrest was followed Tuesday morning by dismissal of Debbie Horne, the detention center’s administrator for 24 years. It was not clear if the actions were related.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said his office thoroughly investigates the background of prospective correctional officers to “weed out those who might fall to the temptations offered by certain inmates,” but indicated some still do.
“Once an inmate has compromising information on a correctional officer, that correctional officer becomes a liability,” Faile said in a statement. “Mr. Sweet stepped into this trap.
“His actions were intolerable, and he put his co-workers at risk,” he said. “I am deeply disappointed at this turn of events and took immediate action to see that Mr. Sweet was terminated and that appropriate criminal charges were made against him.”
In a phone call Wednesday, Faile said Horne was no longer employed by the sheriff’s office as of Tuesday morning, but said he wasn’t going to “talk about personnel issues.”
Reached at her home Wednesday, Horne confirmed that she was no longer worked at the sheriff’s office.
She was aware of Sweet’s arrest, but said she didn’t know any details.
Horne also stressed that there were no criminal charges against her, but declined to comment further.
According to Barfield, Sweet allegedly provided inmates with cell phones and phone chargers, as well as marijuana, cigarettes, cigarette lighters and “blunt spray” to mask the smell of marijuana and cigarette smoke several times between September and the end of the year.
Barfield said the investigation leading to Sweet’s arrest started Jan. 2 after guards conducting a search found a cell phone in the commons area of a cellblock. Investigators got a search warrant for the phone and also talked with inmates and civilians, as well as corrections employees.
Sweet was fired and arrested Monday evening after he was questioned, Barfield said.
“Contraband in jails and prisons is a huge safety concern,” Faile said. “Seemingly harmless items can be used as currency for commerce among inmates, giv(ing) some inmates advantages over others, and create disputes among inmates.  
“These activities create danger to inmates, corrections staff, and the public who might be in the facility,” he said. “Cell phones are particularly onerous and allow inmates to communicate outside the walls to arrange all sorts of improper and illegal activities.”
Sweet was released Wednesday under a $15,000 personal recognizance bond. He had worked as a detention center guard since November 2015.
Horne began as a part-time guard at the detention center in September 1989. She went on to become a full-time corrections officer the next year and rose quickly through the ranks to administrator in November 1993.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151 or follow on Twitter @ReeceTLN.