South Carolina Prison Supervisor Caught in $219,000 Bribery Scandal

South Carolina Prison Supervisor Caught in $219,000 Bribery Scandal

According to federal authorities, a supervisor in charge of security at a South Carolina jail took more than $219,000 in bribes over three years and obtained 173 illegal smartphones for convicts.

Christine Mary Livingston, 46, was accused earlier this month on 15 counts including bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering.

Livingston served in the South Carolina Department of Corrections for 16 years. She was appointed to captain at Broad River Correctional Institution in 2016, taking over security at the medium-security Columbia prison, according to investigators.

Livingston collaborated with another convict, 33-year-old Jerell Reaves, to receive bribes for cellphones and other illegal items. According to a federal indictment released Thursday, they would accept $1,000 to $7,000 for a phone via the smart phone Cash App money transfer program.

According to federal prosecutors, Reaves was referred to as Hell Rell, and Livingston as Hell Rell’s Queen.

If convicted, both could face up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and an order to repay the fraudulently gained money.

Reaves is serving a 15-year term for voluntary manslaughter after shooting a man at a Marion County convenience store in 2015. Lawyers for Livingston and Reaves did not respond to queries on Friday.

South Carolina Prison Supervisor Caught in $219,000 Bribery Scandal

In South Carolina prisons, contraband cellphones have long been an issue. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling stated that convicts have ran drug gangs, fraud schemes, and even ordered murders from behind bars.

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Cellphones spurred the 2018 violence at Lee Correctional Intuition, which killed seven inmates.

“This woman broke the public trust in South Carolina, making our prisons less safe for inmates, staff and the community. We will absolutely not tolerate officers and employees bringing contraband into our prisons, and I’m glad she is being held accountable,” Stirling stated.

The South Carolina jail system has asked federal regulators to allow them to jam cellphone signals in prisons, but they have not received authorization.

Recently, they achieved success with a gadget that identifies all smartphones on prison premises, allowing personnel to request that mobile phone carriers ban illegitimate numbers, though Stirling’s agency has not received enough funding to deploy it beyond a one-jail pilot program.

In January, Stirling shared a video of an unhappy inmate contacting a tech support hotline when his phone stopped working, asking the technician “what can I do to get it turned back on?” and being told he needed to call a Corrections Department hotline.

Between July 2022 and June 2023, state prison officials issued 2,179 violations for inmates in possession of prohibited communication devices, and more over 35,000 cellphones have been discovered since 2015. The prison system houses approximately 16,000 inmates.

Stirling has lobbied the General Assembly to enact legislation stating that smartphones are banned in prisons rather than being classified as contraband and allowing up to an additional year to be added to a sentence for possessing an illegal phone, with up to five years for a second conviction.

That bill has not passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.