One guard’s story illustrates the extreme danger of contraband cell phones

A few years after graduating from high school, Robert Johnson decided to apply for a job with the Florida Department of Corrections. He was hired and, after a period of training, was sent to work in one of the state’s toughest institutions – a maximum security facility where some of the state’s most violent and dangerous offenders were housed.

 

It was a job where as many as half of all recruits quit within their first month. But Johnson took to the tough prison environment naturally. He had an easygoing, respectful way with the inmates but was firm and confident at the same time. These are exactly the kind of traits that any supervisor looks for in a new corrections officer.

 

As the years went on, Johnson was promoted through the ranks. After a few years, he was tapped for promotion to one of the FDOCs most prestigious jobs. Johnson was offered a position on the prison’s SERT team. SERT stands for Special Emergency Response team. The team is charged with carrying out the most dangerous tasks in the prison system, such as inmate extractions, random cell searches and riot control. Johnson quickly proved to be a capable team member, eventually becoming a unit commander.

 

It was in this position, as the head of his own SERT team, that Johnson became the target of one of the most powerful gangs in the state. On a routine cell search, Johnson and his team uncovered a package containing a large amount of a powder substance. Later, tests revealed that it was nearly pure heroin, with a street value of around $50,000. This meant that the prison value of the drugs may have been over a quarter-million dollars.

 

The gang to whom the heroin belonged quickly discovered that Johnson was behind the raid. One morning, as he prepared for work, a gunman broke down the front door of Johnson’s home, rushed him and fired six shots, point-blank, into his chest. By a miracle, Johnson survived. But it has been a long road to recovery. After more than 30 surgeries, Johnson still lives in extreme pain. He cannot work his old job, but he has found a new way to promote the safety of the nation’s prisons.

 

Johnson has teamed up with Securus Technologies to promote the company’s Wireless Containment System, a device that enables officers to block 100-percent of all unauthorized cellular calls originating from within a prison’s grounds. After Johnson’s ordeal, it was determined that the hit on him had been placed over a contraband cell phone. If the Wireless Containment System had been installed where Johnson worked, it likely would have saved him from being shot.

 

Today, Johnson and Securus are working to put a permanent end to the threat of contraband cell phones.

 

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