ERWIN — An employee of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department was arrested on Friday and now faces drug-related charges for allegedly delivering drugs to inmates in the Unicoi County Jail, according to Sheriff Mike Hensley.
Faith A. Smith was arrested and charged with introducing drugs into a penal facility. Smith served as the dietitian and one of the cooks at the jail located in downtown Erwin.
Hensley said his office initiated an investigation after at least two inmates were seen to be impaired. The sheriff said an investigator questioned one of the inmates and learned Smith was providing narcotics to an inmate. The investigator also questioned a family member of one of the inmates who confessed that they had met with Smith and provided her with drugs to take into the jail, Hensley said.
During the course of the internal investigation, which later became a criminal investigation, officials learned Smith had received roxicodone, a schedule II controlled substance, as well as a diabetic syringe, to bring into the jail, according to Hensley. Hensley also said because Smith was an employee of the sheriff’s department, she was not searched whenever she entered the jail and was able to get the drugs past the corrections officer.
“You hate to think about an employee doing something like that,” Hensley said. “You put a lot of trust in them. She was an employee. She could come at will in and out of the jail. She was never searched. There was no reason to suspect anything, but then we found this. It was good work by my officers. They did an excellent job.”
UCSD Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said officials believe Smith had been transporting drugs into the jail for about a week.
“It’s not the first time she had done it, but we don’t believe she’s been doing it for a long time,” Rogers said.
Rogers said Smith brought two roxicodone pills and the syringe into the jail Wednesday, the same day she met with a family member of one of the inmates.
“She met this family member at the McDonald’s restaurant here in Erwin, and the family member and her disguised the drugs and syringe in a toothbrush holder and then she brought it back into the jail and delivered it to the inmate,” Rogers said.
Rogers said investigators learned Smith did have ties to the family of one of the inmates prior to her employment with the sheriff’s department, but he declined to elaborate further.
A search of Smith’s belongings and vehicle revealed evidence to support her involvement, Hensley said. Sheriff’s department officials contacted District Attorney General Tony Clark on Friday morning, and Clark reviewed the evidence and agreed Smith should not only be terminated, but prosecuted as well, Hensley said. An arrest warrant for Smith was issued Friday, and she was arrested immediately following her termination at the jail.
“She is charged, she’s in jail and she’s fired,” Hensley said.
Hensley said Smith had worked as the jail’s dietitian and cook for about three months after a brief stint as a jailer. Rogers said the cause for Smith’s alleged actions are still under investigation. Hensley said because Smith was a part-time employee, she did not fall under Civil Service requirements and officials did not have to notify her of the internal investigation. Rogers said because Smith was not a law enforcement officer, the sheriff’s department will be the prosecuting agency.
Smith is being held in the Unicoi County Jail Annex. She is set for arraignment Monday morning in Sessions Court and will have another hearing in Sessions Court on Thursday.
Hensley said releasing information on Smith’s arrest is part of his ongoing effort to run a transparent administration.
“I will be accountable as well as responsible for my department,” he said. “Myself, nor my employees, are above the law. I believe that before you can enforce the law you must first obey the law. If I find that my employees are violating the law, I will take immediate action.”