Why drones are bad news for corrections

What in the world do we do to prevent the introduction of contraband that's flown in overhead?


Modern technology has helped corrections grow for many years now. We have various electronic devises to help us log our activities and keep track of our housing units.  The facilities themselves have come a long ways over the 26 years I have been around. The radios are better, security cameras are top notch and locking mechanisms can be controlled from a remote location. These examples are just a few things we have seen improve over the years.

But has technology advanced so fast that it may cause us headaches as well?

Recent articles detail drones dropping contraband into prisons and body scanners to detect contraband. As I read the articles regarding drones, I wasn’t sure what to think. As coincidence would have it, the same day I read the thread on body scanners, I took delivery of two units for my facility.

I am sure I will have more to write about in the near future regarding the body scanners as they are scheduled to go on line within the next week to week and a half.  So I want to tackle the drone issue first. What in the world do we do to prevent the introduction of contraband that’s flown in overhead? I’m sure there will be some high tech solutions out there someday, if it’s not already on the market.

Still, those solutions can be costly to implement. As soon as they’re in place, criminals will quickly find a way to overcome them.  So what can we do to prevent the contraband the drones are dropping into the prisoner’s hand? At first glance, I see nothing we can do to effectively prevent this from happening.

From my perspective, our best weapon in this battle is with detection of contraband. It would be nearly impossible to cover every square in of ground in prison yards, but it’s important in to frequently inspect areas that prisoners have access to. I am sure that walking the yard is not the most exciting part of working in a prison, but it has become necessary to maintain safety in prisons.

I am also a firm believer that searching prisoners is critical to our job and the safety of our facilities. How often do you walk past a prisoner and ask them to hit the wall? I know it seldom happed in my jail. Most often it’s due to lack of time due the work load and low staffing levels.

I also say that something can wait. Visits can be one minute late arriving or meals trays can wait a couple minutes before being returned to the kitchen; the GED class can even start a few minutes late if it means the officers have more time to search prisoners in order to detect contraband. One of the things that can’t wait is detecting contraband. Finding drugs and weapons must always be on the forefront of our priorities. We can never rush so much that we don’t take time to look for contraband.  The words I like to live by (literally) are frequent searches save lives.

What forms of contraband can drones carry? I am no expert on these flying devices; however, I do know how to use a search engine. My research was to see how much weight a drone could lift and carry. I came across a neat little video where a person used a “cheap”, in his words, quad prop UAV to attempt to lift a 6 pack of beer that weighed about 77 ounces. Amazingly enough, the beer took flight. Although it did not make it more than a couple feet of the ground, it was none the less impressive. When I placed my fully loaded and chambered Glock model 27 on a scale it weighed 27 ounces. That would make me believe with a little practice a good pilot could manage to deliver a good deal of items into prisons that we would prefer not get into the hands of those we are keeping locked inside.

This, my friends, is why we need to be hyper vigilant in our pat downs, cell searches and inspections. There is never time to rest in a correctional facility.

It’s my hope that some of the things I say will make readers think about things they encounter and give them some ideas and help remind everyone to stay alert at all times.  

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