3 items attorneys 'accidentally' give inmates

Here are the concerns over items that attorneys can accidentally give to inmates


One often-ignored source of contraband is the inside source. Now, before everyone goes on the defensive, I am not going to go on a rant about a bunch of bad corrections officers. Today we are going to look at the accidental inside sources. What I define as accidental sources are people we allow to have access to our prisoners that have no intent to provide them with contraband.

Let’s take a quiz.

1)What is one thing every single prisoner has the right to?

Answer: An attorney

2)What are 3 things an attorney uses that prisoners may use as contraband?

Answer: Ink pens, paperclips and staples

I like attorneys,; they tend to be good people if you can look past the fact that they defend bad people, so I won’t place all the blame on them for the contraband ending up in the prisoner’s possession.  However, for this article I’m going to focus on them.

The obvious concerns over an ink pens, paperclips and staples is they can be used or fashioned into stabbing implements. However, I am going to dive a little deeper into uses of the 3 pieces of contraband our friendly attorney allowed our prisoner to get their grimy little paws on.

Staples, pens, and staples

I’ll start with the staples. Over the years I have seen staples be used as a tattoo needle to make some very artistic tattoos. I have also seen many very poorly made tattoos. One of the poorest that I will never forget was on the back of a young prisoner that was awaiting prosecution on a criminal sexual conduct (CSC) charge. He asked a cellmate to put an orchid on his upper shoulder in remembrance of his deceased mother. The artist decided that a penis with the letters “CSC” underneath was more fitting. Obviously for health and safety reasons our “jailhouse” tattoos are not popular with our administrators when they foot the bill for the medical care after the prisoner ends up with an infection. In the case of our penis tattoo victim, he is now a security nightmare for the rest of his criminal career.

Over the years we have all seen various intelligence reports about ways people have unlocked handcuffs and the importance of double locking them. I recently learned how easy it is to use a paperclip to unlock both the main lock and the double locking mechanism. With a little practice a coworker of mine was able to free one hand in less than 60 seconds.

Using the paperclip, slide the tip into the key hole and rotate or push toward the double locking pin. Once you feel pressure push slightly and the locking pin will disengage. To quickly open the cuffs’ swing arm, place the clip firmly where the teeth of the cuffs meet the housing. Push the cuffs’ swing arm down to make them tighter. As the cuff becomes tighter make sure the clip goes inside the housing. Once the clip is far enough to push the rocking locking arm down the swing arm can be pulled open. If unsuccessful, the cuffs become tight. If successful our prisoner is now free from handcuff. So use caution next time a prisoner asks you to loosen their cuffs. Also noteworthy is that the ink filled insert of an ink pen can be used for the last step of this process and if your attorney buys fancy pens with metal pocket clips they can be used to complete all of the steps.

Attorneys generally have no intent to provide prisoners with these items and most often will simply hand them a packet of legal papers or set the pen or paperclip on the table, giving the prisoner a chance to pocket the valued contraband. Attorneys actually probably don’t even realize the concerns we have with these ordinary items they use daily in the free world.

Search and live

What can correctional officers do to prevent these forms of contraband? Well, whether we like it or not, our prisoners get certain rights under the U.S. Constitution and are allowed to have access to attorneys. Correctional institutions have the right to search attorneys and their possessions prior to allowing them access to the prisoners.

However, during court proceedings we don’t have that luxury as they are in a court house. That is where good searches come into play. If your agency’s policies allow, a strip search of all prisoners that have been in any way out of your sight are warranted. Also, if possible, a uniform change after the strip search should take place as well. The inmate that showed my coworkers how he used a paperclip and small piece of an ink pen’s pocket clip to unlock his cuffs also showed where on his uniform he had concealed it. Even with a good search of the uniform during a strip search it likely would have gone undiscovered by even the best correctional officer, as it a was small enough and felt like a thick seam in the elastic waist band.

‘Search and live’ are words to live by.

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