LA Teacher's Assistant Accused Of Smuggling Heroin To Death Row Murderer

By McCarton Ackerman 08/31/16

Teri Nichols reportedly smuggled heroin and cell phones to a death row inmate in San Quentin.

LA Teacher's Assistant Accused Of Smuggling Heroin To Death Row Murderer

A Los Angeles teaching assistant has landed in hot water for her extracurricular activities, after being charged with smuggling cellphones and heroin to a death row inmate at San Quentin State Prison.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Teri Orina Nichols, 47, was arrested last Thursday during a visit with 50-year-old inmate Bruce Millsap. He received eight death sentences in 2000, plus an additional 200-year sentence, for murdering eight people.

After the prison’s Investigative Services Unit observed plastic bags in an area that the pair were in, both Nichols and Millsap were searched. Prison officials later alleged that Nichols admitted to bringing in a wide range of contraband that included three ounces of heroin, two unidentified blue pills, 18 cell phones and 18 cell phone chargers.

Nichols has been working for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for nearly 25 years and was most recently assigned to a special education assistant position at South East High School in South Gate, according to the Times. LAUSD confirmed in a statement that she still works for the district, but has been assigned to a “non-school site” for the time being.

Nichols is currently facing one felony count of bringing a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia into a prison or jail and one misdemeanor count of possession with intent to deliver a wireless communication device or component to a prison inmate. If convicted on both charges, she faces up to four years in county jail.

Smuggling drugs to inmates has remained a problem throughout California prisons. State figures show that 109 inmates died of overdoses between between 2010 and 2015. Marin County coroner records also showed six death row inmates died with methamphetamine, heroin, and other drugs in their system during that same period.

Some California parolees have even been getting arrested on purpose so they could smuggle drugs into jail. After the state passed prison realignment legislation in 2011, which sent lower-level felons to county jails instead of overcrowded prisons, some parolees began committing minor infractions to get arrested and then swallowing balloons of drugs that wouldn’t come up in strip searches.

Since the realignment began, narcotics cases jumped from 145 in 2011 to more than 335 in 2014.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.