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They put what where? 7 contraband stories show why you should screen everything

Inmates and their associates will try just about anything when it comes to smuggling drugs and other contraband behind bars


Sponsored by Smiths Detection

By Rachel Zoch for CorrectionsOne BrandFocus

Keeping out contraband is a constant challenge for correctional facilities – in part, because inmates and their friends and family continue to come up with new and sometimes bizarre ways to sneak illicit items into secure spaces.

Inmates will hide contraband anywhere and everywhere – including socks and underwear. X-ray and other detection tools can help thwart the efforts of inmates and their friends and family to sneak illicit items into your facility. (image/iStock)
Inmates will hide contraband anywhere and everywhere – including socks and underwear. X-ray and other detection tools can help thwart the efforts of inmates and their friends and family to sneak illicit items into your facility. (image/iStock)

Here are seven recent contraband stories that illustrate why it’s important to screen everyone and everything, every time.

1. A Crappy Hiding Place

A trio of incidents from early 2019 illustrate just how cheeky criminals can be. Deputies at a local jail in Louisiana found a gun concealed in the buttocks of a man during an intake strip search. The same week, a Florida man removed three syringes from his rectum during an intake strip search at the county jail – then handed them to the deputy and said they weren’t his.

Both of these could have posed a hazard to the officers performing the searches, but fortunately, no one was hurt. The following month, however, a New Mexico man tried to smuggle a folding knife into jail via rectum and tried to remove it and harm COs while being searched.

Using an X-ray body scanner during intake reduces the need for strip searches. You may still need to do a manual search when the scanner reveals something suspicious, but the scanner can not only speed up the process but puts more space between inmates and COs for improved officer safety.

2. Gone Bananas

Two sergeants in a Texas state prison discovered 540 packages of cocaine in a shipment of bananas that had been donated. They noticed that one of the boxes felt different from the others, took a closer look and found a bundle of a white powdery substance hidden inside.

This is a great example of why it’s important to search everything that comes into your facility, even something that seems innocuous. A large X-ray scanner can make screening deliveries much faster and easier by allowing COs to see what’s inside without having to rummage through every box. Should a package or vehicle be deemed suspicious from X-ray screening, the contents can be confirmed by manual search.

3. What’s That in Your Pocket?

Visitors sometimes try to sneak little “gifts” to inmates, like pills or razor blades, which are easy to conceal and particularly popular with inmates. The blades can be wrapped in electrical tape and “cheeked,” hidden in big hairdos or tucked into pockets or waistbands – or even concealed in body cavities.

You can search belongings and perform pat-downs, but the surest way to see what every person is hiding is with a full-body X-ray scanner, like the B-SCAN from Smiths Detection, that allows you to look inside the body without having to perform an invasive physical search.

4. What’s for Lunch?

If we’re going to take measures to keep inmates and visitors from bringing in contraband, we have to screen staff as well, says CorrectionsOne columnist Gary York. While the majority of COs and other facility employees are above board, even one contraband incident is too many. For example, investigators in Oklahoma received a tip and found hydrocodone, meth and marijuana wrapped inside a CO’s burrito. X-ray screening of all employees and their belongings – every time they enter a facility – can be an effective deterrent against temptation.

5. All That Glitters

It’s no secret that jail mail is a common route for smuggling attempts. Anything that includes arts and crafts should be met with extra suspicion – even something that appears to be created by a child. After a tip from a detective, a Virginia county jail was able to intercept three letters carrying the drug ecstasy concealed in glitter glue and crayon drawings.

Also look out for stickers or tape – or even oversized postage stamps – which are often used to conceal Suboxone strips (most of which are less than a square inch in size). Also, chemicals can be melted and absorbed into paper, creating invisible yet potent contraband.

It’s easy to miss illicit substances during a manual inspection, but screening can be done faster for these substances, and more effectively, with trace detection tools like the IONSCAN 600 from Smiths Detection. The surfaces of letters and envelopes can be swabbed and analyzed for the presence of trace amounts of narcotics. This way, batches of mail can be swabbed and cleared in seconds, allowing large volumes of mail to be processed in minutes.

6. Sock it to Me

Family members can no longer bring socks and underwear clothing to inmates in a Mississippi county jail after drugs were found inside several such items. The facility had already stopped allowing Bibles because COs had discovered a weapon and drugs hidden inside.

Although the county sheriff said the drugs sewn inside a pair of socks weren’t something a general screening would detect, it was pretty obvious who did it, as individuals delivering the items had to present an ID, and jail staff marked the items with the inmates’ names.

Running those items through an X-ray system would help spot the hidden items within minutes.

7. Aiming for the Cheap Seats

Just weeks after her release from prison, an Oklahoma woman was arrested for using a T-shirt cannon to shoot contraband over a prison fence. The unit was placed on lockdown after a CO saw the package – which contained cellphones, earbuds, chargers, meth, marijuana and tobacco – come over the fence, and the woman was arrested nearby.

Contraband can also come over the fence via drones, which are a growing problem for correctional facilities around the world. Stay vigilant for airborne packages, whether thrown, launched or dropped. Various identification and detection tools can help identify the contents of anything that does slip through.

Although the more inventive efforts may elicit a chuckle, contraband is no joke. Drugs and other banned items disrupt order and pose a threat to inmates and staff alike, including costly and potentially deadly overdoses. Constant vigilance, including a layered screening strategy and detection tools, can help your facility stay out of the news.

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