Clothing-as-currency allegations shed light on Pa. county prison garb

Prison clothing being used as currency for meth raises questions about how inmates are outfitted


Jennifer Learn-Andes
The Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Prison clothing reportedly was used as currency in the recent alleged peddling of methamphetamine by a group of female Luzerne County prison inmates, raising questions about how prisoners are outfitted and what purchase protocols are in place.

According to court records, Jamie Lynn Brownlie, 36, of White Haven, allegedly concealed methamphetamine in one of her body cavities when she was brought to jail in January and then provided the drug to Joleen Gambardella, 37, of Hazle Township, and other inmates using two “monitors.”

Brownlie acknowledged receiving shower shoes, sweatpants, sweatshirts and hygiene products for meth, while Gambardella received approximately $150 to $180 of items from inmates — including food and clothing — in exchange for the drug, records allege.

The monitors — identified as Aubreana Sophia Hosey, 20, of West Hazleton, and Linzy Chodnicki, 30, of Duryea — walk around the female cell block to make sure no other inmates harmed themselves, records said. All four women were charged and have either waived their right to a preliminary hearing or are awaiting a hearing, court documents say.

County Correctional Services Division Head Mark Rockovich said female inmates receive the following items when they are lodged in the county’s prison system: three pairs each of underwear and socks, two pairs of pants, two shirts, two bras, one pair of sneakers and, in colder seasons, a jacket.

Male inmates receive the same, minus the bras.

All inmates also receive a personal care package with basic toiletry items, two sheets and a pillow, pillowcase, towel, blanket and plastic cup.

Inmates with money in their accounts can purchase extra clothing and other commissary items once a week, with the items ordered on paper and delivered to their cells, Rockovich said.

The exception: inmates who break the rules are only permitted to purchase hygiene products while they are on disciplinary status, he said.

To prevent inmates from stockpiling goods that can be used improperly, the facility sets dollar limits on the amount they can purchase each week, Rockovich said.

Caps were imposed years ago to prevent mini-stores in prison cells allowing inmates with more financial resources to use goods for bartering power, officials have said.

When corrections officers find large quantities of items during cell shakedowns, they verify whether those items were purchased by the inmate occupying the cell, Rockovich said.

“If the inmate did not buy them, it’s contraband, and the inmate would be issued a misconduct for that,” Rockovich said.

Rockovich said “anything in excess” is considered contraband, not only commissary items. For example, past prison officials have described instances where inmates stashed away juice and other food items in an attempt to make fermented beverages.

Corrections officers “do a great job checking the cells,” Rockovich said, stressing he is unable to talk about the specifics of the four female inmates.

Store items

A range of clothing is available for purchase at the prison, according to a list furnished by Rockovich.

In addition to more of the basic items furnished upon admittance, inmates with financial means can buy thermal tops and bottoms, gym shorts, sweat shirts and pants and shower shoes.

There are four types of shoes for sale, ranging from the Rawlings Marc II velcro shoe for $22 to the Reebok Run Supreme for $46.

Some examples of clothing prices: gym shorts, $10; shirt, $11 to $14.75, depending on the size; and thermal bottoms, $6.06 to $14.14.

Prison officials try to keep the aging prison on Water Street at a constant temperature so inmates are comfortable, although periodic malfunctions may make a block temporarily cooler, he said. The supplied jackets can be used in the recreation yard, Rockovich said.

“As large and old as the building is, the maintenance department does a good job balancing the temperature in the building,” he said.

Rockovich said he is not aware of any prison without a commissary.

Commissary profits cannot fund prison operating expenses and must be used to cover purchases benefiting inmates, such as prison library and legal books and hygiene products for those deemed indigents, officials have said.

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©2019 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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