Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mental health worker at prison faces contraband charges

By JON MILTIMORE / News Herald Writer
January 29, 2009 - 7:29PM
PANAMA CITY — A prison employee believed to be romantically involved with an inmate was arrested Thursday on charges of introducing contraband into a correctional facility, officials said.

Tina L. Ortiz, 35, of Chipley is accussed of bringing a cellular phone into Bay Correctional Facility with the intention of giving it to an inmate, according to a Bay County Sheriff's Office release.

Ortiz was working at Bay Correctional Facility, a prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America, as a mental health specialist assistant, Bay County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Ruth Corley said.

"She was not one of our employees," Corley said.

Ortiz became a suspect when prison authorities found a cellular phone when an inmate was moved. An investigation to discover the phone's ownership suggested she and an inmate may have been romantically involved, Corely said.

"Investigators discovered messages between the two that revealed their relationship was romantic in nature," Corley said.

Bay County Sheriff's Officials were brought into the investigation Wednesday, Corley said, and it was determined Ortiz had brought the phone into the facility. Ortiz was arrested and later admitted to the crime, Corley said.

"She has given us a full confession," Corley said.

Ortiz was booked into Bay County Jail on Thursday evening, jail officials said, and is scheduled for a first appearance today.

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