Tasha L. Vinson

Tasha L. Vinson

FINDLEY TOWNSHIP, Mercer County — A female prison guard at men's state prison in Mercer is accused of smuggling drugs into the state prison and having a sexual relationship with a male inmate.

Tasha Lynn Vinson, 44, of 6 Chestnut St., Stoneboro, faces a preliminary hearing later this month on Pennsylvania State Police charges of possession with intent to deliver, contraband or controlled substance, institutional sexual assault and possession of a controlled substance.

Police allege the incidents took place between August 2019 and May 4, 2020, at the State Correctional Institution Mercer, 801 Butler Pike Road, Findley Township.

During a search May 11 of inmates’ cells, prison staff discovered a large amount of K2 synthetic cannabinoid and contacted state police to investigate. According to the criminal complaint, police found the contraband was taken into SCI Mercer by Vinson, who is a corrections officer at the prison.

SCI Mercer inmate, Dayvon Marqui Cox, told police he and Vinson had been in a relationship, and during the course of several months, he and Vinson had engaged in sexual contact.

Cox provided identifying characteristics, including tattoos Vinson has in intimate places, according to the criminal complaint. Cox told investigators the pair engaged in sexual contact within his cell and an office on his cell block during Vinson’s shift as a corrections officer.

The sexual encounters took place from mid-to-late summer of 2019 and continued until about two weeks ago, according to police.

Cox told police that he and Vinson talked about being together once he got out of prison, according to court documents. Cox asked her to bring in some synthetic cannabinoid into the prison to make money, according to court documents.

Cox said Vinson did a "dry" run in February or March and then a few weeks later, she brought the contraband into the prison, according to police. Vinson subsequently brought Cox three sheets of K2 in an envelope with an estimated value of $50,000 to $60,000, according to police.

Vinson was arraigned Monday before District Judge Daniel W. Davis and taken to Mercer County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bond. Vinson posted a $25,000 bond Tuesday and was released, according to court documents.

Vinson has been suspended from her job as a corrections officer pending the outcome of the case, Nicole Franz, spokeswoman for SCI Mercer said Friday.

Vinson remains free on bond awaiting a preliminary hearing on the charges Thursday before Davis.

Melissa Klaric writes for The (Sharon) Herald, which, like The Meadville Tribune, is owned by CNHI. Tribune reporter Keith Gushard contributed to this report. 

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