Let’s start this blog article off with some
commentary about the picture above to help you Get In The Know About Illegal Prison Contraband. Imagine how many
cell phones and contraband got inside jails and prisons due to contraband
smuggling. That is…before the invention and implementation of search equipment and
unless contraband smugglers didn’t forget to turn off the cell phone ringers
(Lol). Is there more to the story when it comes to prison contraband? You bet.
Contraband has constituted a menace in all prison facilities all
over the world. Inmates, visitors, and even correctional officers have
contributed to the thriving contraband culture in jails and prisons. We need to
set the records straight as most visitors to the prison have ignorantly
perpetuated this smuggling act. In this piece, we will explain what contraband
in prison is, various forms of contraband, how prisons can checkmate the
smuggling of contraband, and legal punishments for visitors and inmates that
Prison Contraband is defined as any property that is illegal to
own, use, or carry around inside a prison facility. Every prison has
regulations that prevent inmates from possessing certain items, some of which
are harmful or potentially lethal. Contraband is not always a dangerous
substance. It can be anything from phones, clothing, medication, and earpieces
to certain types of food. But the underlying definition refers to any item that
inmates could exchange, modify or leverage to escape as determined by the
Due to changing regulations, what was formally legal to possess
today in prisons could be termed contraband tomorrow. For example, tobacco
smoking was prohibited in prisons in July 2011 and since then smoking devices
and paraphernalia have been declared contraband in prisons. With understaffed
prisons and staff who may be exhausted by overtime hours, manual searches or
frisks for drugs, weapons, or contraband are easily smuggled into facilities.
In fact, a 2017 report by the New York City Department of
Investigation (DOI), the City's
Inspector General uncovered that a DOI investigator in September 2017 smuggled
in $5,000 worth of contraband including two scalpel blades, 26.8 grams of
marijuana, and five strips of suboxone, a prescription opiate, through the
entrances of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Detention Centers.
VARIOUS FORMS OF CONTRABAND IN
Some common examples of contraband in prisons include hard drugs, pills,
phones, tattoo instruments, alcohol, medication paraphernalia, sharp objects,
weapons, etc. Other instances of contraband in prisons may include normal and
seemingly harmless items that while not illegal, could be explored wrongly by
Below is a list of the contraband in detail:
Hard Drugs - Such as marijuana leaves weighing up to 20 grams and above
or powders suspected to be hard drugs
Communication gadgets - Such as mobile phones, headphones or SIM
Sharp Objects - Such as knives, glass, canned products, and other
make-shift weapons or work tools outside of authorized jurisdiction
Alcohol - Either beer, spirits, wines, or any other home-brewed
Tattoo Devices - Such as inks and needles
Drugs and medication paraphernalia which include tobacco devices
Other items that can be considered contraband- Such as cash, gang
symbolism, another inmate's item, etc.
METHODS TO REDUCE CONTRABAND
Prison facilities have devised various screening methods to reduce
or stop contraband from entering prisons. The intelligence department in
prisons is responsible for analyzing, identifying, and reducing risk areas
within the prison facility and keeping abreast of the latest smuggling and
Today, some prison facilities employ interdiction modalities to
prevent contraband from entering their facilities. An interdiction modality is
a combination of both the regulatory policies and practices that correctional
facilities use to stop contraband from gaining entry into their facility as
well as intelligent strategies used to detect and destroy contraband that may
have already found its way into the prison yard. Below are some of the
practices and methods used to prevent the prevalence of contraband in prisons.
Even though we most times try to shy away from the obvious, the
fact is that the prison officers also engage in the smuggling of contraband in prisons.
Their willingness to collaborate with visitors and inmates perpetuates the
spread of contraband in the facility. Therefore, the first step towards
preventing the smuggling of contraband in prisons is by hiring right. A
thorough and comprehensive background check of a potential employee is
recommended especially for applicants interested in filling a sensitive and
trusted position. Prison administrators now do more than just inquire about
the usual conviction or driving history of the applicant. They now go as far as
inquiring about the applicant's work history, hobbies, and social affiliations.
Monitor Officers closely
Also, supervisors are mandated to keep a close eye on officers on
duty. By so doing, they get to see what the officers are doing, listen to their
conversations, and observe their body language. For instance, if an officer is
paying too much attention to certain quarters/units in the prison yard, that is
a red flag. If they also appear to have some cozy relationship with certain
inmates, it becomes a threat to the integrity of their jobs. If supervisors
really pay attention to their subordinates and, better yet, be seen lurking
around always, the subordinates will less likely indulge in smuggling
The visitors that have signed up to visit inmates in prison must
be thoroughly screened too, to prevent contraband from entering the prison.
Visitors with questionable characters and bad social records are not allowed to
visit inmates. Examples are individuals on parole, gang member, felons, drug
According to New York
City Department of Correction officials, in state and federal prisons, strip
searches of visitors are permitted with consent, but not cavity checks. In city
jails, however, neither strip searches nor cavity checks of visitors are
allowed. Be sure to check your state’s Department of Corrections or agency for
specific information regarding your state’s policies and procedures on strip
searches in jail and prisons.
Some prisons have deployed technologies like
X-ray scanning to facilitate more forensic and thorough screening in a bid to
detect and deter contraband, especially drugs. Employing X-ray technology
eliminates the need for time-consuming manual screening. The machines are also
very easy to deploy and easily integrated into existing screening protocols.
PUNISHMENT FOR CONTRABAND
In the United States, engaging in contraband smuggling is a tier 5
crime on a scale of 1 to 6. The most serious being 1 and the least serious, 6.
The penalty for a class 5 crime is at least one and a half years in
incarceration. The penalty could be a harsher sentence depending on the level
of the crime, such as a longer jail term or time in a state correctional
facility as opposed to doing time in county jail. The law ensures that
second-time offenders get stronger and longer punishment.
However, it is important to note that a defendant is only guilty of smuggling charges if he consciously and intentionally brought contraband into a correctional facility. The defendant, therefore, cannot be penalized for the crime if he is not aware, he was carrying contraband into the prison. Make sure that you do not turn yourself into a victim of your own ignorance by not knowing about the consequences of smuggling contraband in jail or prisons.
Contraband negatively and falsely empowers prisoners and defeats
the reason for their incarceration in a correctional facility. Even items that appear
harmless can be dangerous inside a prison and compromise the integrity and
security of the facility, its staff, and prisoners.
Currently, there are not any full proof ways to abolish smuggling
contraband into jails and prisons. Whether you are a visitor, inmate, or prison
officer, all must join efforts in combating the entrance and impact of
contraband in correctional facilities. We leave you with some interesting and
controversial videos about prison contraband.
(Disclaimer: Cell Block Legendz does not own the rights to these videos.)
Surprising Ways Inmates Have Snuck Contraband into Prison
Cell Block Legendz Does Not Own The Rights To This Video.
Former Inmate "Lucky" Talks Prison Contraband
Cell Block Legendz Does Not Own The Rights To This Video.
An Inside Look At Prison Contraband
Musumeci, N. (2018). Smuggling Contraband Into NYC
Never Been Easier. Retrieved from New York
Ransom, J. (2018). Women Describe Invasive
Strip Searches on Visits
to City Jails. Retrieved from New York
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