The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 6, 2013

Law helps inmates smuggle drugs, Snyder officials say

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SELINSGROVE - One Snyder County jail inmate is charged with smuggling drugs into the lockup and another had to have surgery to remove a container of pills from her body.

It’s the third drug bust inside the prison in less than a year, prompting county officials to consider new ways to detect contraband, including scanning devices, since prison staff in Pennsylvania may not perform cavity searches on inmates without probable cause, Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch said.

“We are talking about what technology is available, but it’s still in the preliminary stages,” Commissioner Malcolm Derk said.

The latest bust at the county jail took place when heroin, Methadone and tobacco began turning up on Jan. 10 after Ashlee E. White, 27, of Shamokin, was brought in on a bench warrant, court records said.

Two days later, Warden Ruth Rush called Snyder County detective William Neitz Jr. to investigate after seven inmates, including White, tested positive for Methadone, a painkiller that is used to treat addiction.

One inmate said the container White smuggled into the jail contained 250 Methadone pills and packets of heroin. Another inmate said White brought in the drugs, cigarettes and a lighter as well.

At least one inmate, Amy Zigarski, 35, allegedly involved in the drug use was transferred to another jail.

On Jan. 16, Union County Warden Douglas Shaffer informed Neitz that Zigarski was taken to a hospital in Centre County for a cavity search because staff believed she may have brought something with her from the Snyder County jail, court records said.

An X-ray confirmed Zigarski had concealed something in her body, and she was sent to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for further evaluation. Medical staff removed a container of pills from her body the next day, court records said.

Piecuch said contraband inside prisons will continue to be a problem as long as inmates are willing to take the risk of using their bodies to smuggle illegal items in.

The risk is real and “people can die” if drugs seep out of containers accidently and into the inmate’s bloodstream.

White was arraigned on six counts of felony delivery of contraband to inmates and one count of felony possession of contraband by an inmate by District Judge John H. Reed. She’s being held in lieu of $150,000 cash at Snyder County jail pending a March 12 preliminary hearing. The investigation continues.