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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Former Georgia Department of Corrections officer convicted of accepting bribes to smuggle contraband

ATLANTA - Jokelra Copeland has been convicted by a federal jury for accepting bribe payments to smuggle contraband, including illegal drugs, into Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia.

“It’s troubling that Copeland was willing to sell her oath of office by breaking the very laws she had only months before promised to enforce,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Smuggling contraband into our state prisons is a dangerous business.  It compromises the safety of everyone in the prison – inmates, corrections officers and other employees.  This type of conduct will not be tolerated.  And this defendant will now be held accountable for her betrayal of the public trust.”

“Those who violate their sworn duties as prison officers for greed are a top priority for the FBI,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Copeland not only betrayed the institution she was sworn to protect, she also betrayed every hard working corrections officer who upholds their oath every day.”

“We are pleased to see that justice has been served on this individual for her role in jeopardizing the safe and secure operations of our facilities,” said GDC Interim Commissioner Timothy C. Ward.  “Ridding our prisons of corrupt staff and shedding light on those who choose a path of dishonor continues to be one of our top priorities.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court:  Copeland began work for the Georgia Department of Corrections (“GA DOC”) in 2014.  She was assigned to work the overnight shift at Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia.  Within months of being hired, Copeland conspired with inmates and other corrections officers to smuggle contraband into the prison. 

On multiple occasions, the defendant smuggled marijuana to inmates by hiding the packages under her clothing as she passed through the prison’s security entrance.  During a four-month period in mid-2015, Copeland accepted more than $13,000 in bribe payments from the family members of at least two inmates.  Financial records showed that on at least eleven occasions bribe payments were sent to Copeland using international financial wire services. 

Jokelra Copeland was one of 68 GA DOC officers who were arrested by the FBI in 2016 after an extensive federal investigation.  The FBI investigation revealed that some GA DOC officers were willing to smuggle contraband into state prisons in exchange for bribes while other officers were willing to use their law enforcement credentials to protect drug deals occurring outside of the prisons.  

Jokelra Copeland, 32, of Doerun, Georgia, will be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on May 1, 2019.  In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

This case is being investigated by the FBI.

Assistant U.S. Attorney and Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity and Special Matters section Brent Alan Gray and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bret R. Hobson are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Updated February 13, 2019