Monday, March 10, 2008

Smuggling Contraband Into Jail

Here is a sample of weapons confiscated at the Sangamon County Jail, which I believe is in Illinois. These weapons were hard to conceal, but others are readily available. Shanks are commonly made out of toothbrushes, pencils, or a piece of anything that can be pryed or broken off jail fixtures and sharpened. Moreover, the amount of drug use in jail is staggering, suggesting tacit approval of jail staff. Most inmates have their wives smuggle drugs in (you can guess how), and while it extends a criminal heirarchy behind bars, there may be some utility in stoned inmates. One guy I know, who was in for assualting a cop (he took his gun away and threw it into the woods during a struggle)- was stoned out of his mind and standing by his cell. A huge guard came up and stood right beside him. The guard looked over and smiled, telling the guy "A stoned inmate is a happy inmate". Later that same guy got some of his weed stolen by an inmate who was using a sharpened toothbrush as a weapon. Ah, sweet revenge. Mr. "X" waited for the right moment. He then took the "D" cell batteries out of his radio and duct-taped them into a pair of leather gloves (that he used for work crew) and made them into heavy fistloads. He caught the weed thief and bashed the crap out of him until the guy was hurt pretty bad. I guess some things are worth a couple extra months on your sentence.
Back when you could still smoke tobacco in jail (in fact they handed out roll-your-own pouch tobacco), it was easy to put a pinch of pot in the first part of the cigarette, with the tobacco masking the smell.
I know there are readers out there who have been on both sides of the system.
What are your thoughts?


Hand2Hand said...

I saw a display of seized prisoners' weapons by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office several years ago.

I was impressed by their ingenuity. I even saw a pair of nunchaku made by tightly rolling up newspaper and covering it with shellac.

It probably wouldn't have lasted more than a single use, but it does show some inventiveness and how people will improvise when they can't come up with anything else.

Dojo Rat said...

I've seen the newspaper nuchucks also-- they probably only have to work one time, and then they get confiscated...

Hand2Hand said...

I wouldn't be surprised if some jail guards are also smuggling in weapons as well as drugs for the inmates.

True, it doesn't seem like a bright idea selling a weapon to someone who might use it on you, but guards are the bottom rung of law enforcement. Their pay sucks and there's generally only two kinds of people working as guards, as told to me by local police and sheriff's deputies I've worked with.

1. Those who are just starting out in law enforcement. If they have any brains, talent or connections, they will not be in that job for long.

2. Fuck-ups who can't find any work anywhere else.

Patrick Parker said...

H2H - which of those two types of people is Rory Miller at Chiron Training?



Hand2Hand said...

Hey Patrick,

I don't know about Rory Miller. I've never met the man.

I see he's from the northwest. I hope their jail and prison guards are paid better and a more professional caliber that what we have here in Florida.

Sadly, my local county jail was recently made infamous by the dumping of a wheelchair-bound inmate.

I'm not a cop, but I'm more than familiar with the job. I come from a long line of cops, including both of my uncles, who both started out as jail guards.

In my previous job as a newspaper reporter, I've worked with dozens of cops and I've seen much more behind-the-scenes stuff than the average civilian.

If Miller is an exception to my statement, my apologies. But that statement was repeated to me many times by a number of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputies, (including two jail guards), City of Tampa and Plant City, FL. Police Officers.

Bob Patterson said...

They showed us a similar collection of weapons like your photo during the academy phase.

We were told that the prisoners have 24 hours, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to do nothing but think how to sneak stuff in. They are also VERY good at adapting things to weapons or tools.

Walkmans and transistor radios were commonly taken apart to make tattoo guns.

I found at least a half dozen homemade tattoo kits. I never found drugs or weapons during shakedowns of areas. I did find the beginnings of someone's jail house wine kit stashed in the wood shop. They just needed a little more smuggled fruit from the chow hall.

Plastic combs where often filed down to make a shank but I never found any.

I witnessed what a padlock in sock can do to another inmate. The attacker got at least six good ones in before we dog piled on him. Attackee went to the hospital.

Another common way to get drugs in was a compound bow with a tennis ball on the end of the arrow. You just needed an access road close to the yard and courage. I did find an empty arrow ball once.

My shakedown record sucked. I never found shanks or drugs. Just lots of porn, the occasional tattoo kit, or other violation that was not worth writing up half the time.

We had an authorized list of porn--things like Playboy, etc. If the inmate had money or someone to send it then it was allowed.

I had to thoroughly search those magazines...Sometimes three and even four times! The things I did for the state.


Oh and the staff who had mail room duty got to see some very interesting photos that the inmates' wives, girlfriends, etc., would send them. Those were not allowed and all mail was searched and read.

Yes on the correctional officers and jail guards sneaking stuff in. We were randomly searched every week and at least once a week we were greeted by the drug sniffing dog. It was great having a snout in your crouch at 5:30 AM.

Female prison staff often slept with the inmates too. I knew of two officers, one case worker, and a kitchen staff. Now the kitchen staff looked like Dojo Rat in a dress so I can see why she was desperate. However, one of the officers and one of the caseworkers might have made DR's hippie chick of the month if they were hippies. Go figure.

Bob (who's glad he no longer works in a prison)

Hand2Hand said...

Hey Bob,

Glad to hear from a former professional prison guard. Your comments added a lot to the conversation.

I remember having a couple of local jail guards visit the judo dojo where I trained. They had some interesting insights.

One of those guys was a master of the ridge hand and used it many times. He showed me some great applications for it and inspired me to include it more in my own workouts.

Both of those guards (privately) admitted to us that they were partial to the chokeholds in judo for bringing down particularly violent criminals.

Even though it was illegal for them to use chokes, their argument was that, done properly, you can put anyone out cold without leaving bruises or fractures. Without the telltale bruises or fractures, it would be harder for an inmate to claim that he was physically abused.

On the other hand, if you used a nightstick on someone, which was considered legal, the inmate would claim that he was physically abused and he would have some visual evidence for a jury or IA board.

Hand2Hand said...

Hey Bob,

Just curious - what was acceptable porn and what was prohibited?

Playboy is pretty tame. What about Penthouse? They've gotten pretty hardcore in recent years.

I don't expect to have to do any time anytime soon, but it helps to know these things.

One other thing - I have a friend from my church who was a bank robber. He told me he was heavy into the black market in the state and federal prisons where he stayed.

One thing that surprised me was that he made a lot of money selling groceries. He said that a lot of guys actually cooked in their cells rather than eat what was served in the cafeteria. He sold fresh meat and vegetables.

He never told me how that got smuggled in. I only hope it wasn't the way many drugs got smuggled in! (LOL)

Bob Patterson said...

Hand2hand -

That was over 10 years ago. I now sit at a desk and deal with angry students, staff, and professors. Some days I hide under it and weep.


I spent a total of four years in two state prisons. One a max/med with ages primarilly 18 -25 y/o (mostly gang bangers). About 1.5 as an officer, then 6 months as a caseworker. Then I went back to security. I then transfered to a minimum security drug and alcohol rehab center. Both sucked for differing reasons. But especially after having been shift supervisor I learned some crisis management skills that I still use in la-la land.

Re: acceptable porn. I honestly don't remember. It was detailed in the administrative regulations. They had a whole list of what was allowed and what was not. e.g., no colored combs, rubber bands, etc. in the shades of blue or red. This because gang members would STILL try to wear their colors in prison.

On use-of-force: We had guidelines we tried to stay within. So, at some point a night stick would be allowed as long as you followed the continuum. All then regular CO's ever got to carry among inmates were keys, a radio, handcuffs, and a tactical alert button (located on the radio). If the spam hit the fan you hit the button and hoped that the people in control center remembered where your general post was. The CERT team got the cool stuff like riot batons, a pepper spray cannon, etc. The SORT team got firearms. The only firearms we got were when we were in the towers or on special assignment outside the wall. Then it was a Mini-14 and 12 gauge. (I once guarded an outside construction crew with a state vehicle and a 12 gauge while they worked on the wall.)

Anyone from officers to caseworkers could be pulled for a cell extraction. However, they only got full riot gear but no weapons other than an inverted shield. When you go in like a train with five men and hit an inmate with that shield half the fight was usually over.

You generally wanted to NOT put officers in among inmates with weapons. This because we were easily out numbered 20 to 1. So, a lot of what you see in the movies is bunk.

We also had video cameras everywhere so most of it got caught on tape. However, probably 20% of the prison had dead spots re: cameras and the inmates new how to use them. Every cell extraction was always taped.

If you search keyword PPCT at my blog you can see the system of self-defense that they taught us. Since it was designed not to get us sued for excessive force, it worked about half the time. Most correctional officers I knew had an unwritten rule that if they thought they were going to die, the rules went out the window.

For the most part we relied on the use-of-force guidelines and superior numbers. Three to one odds tends to make PPCT work.

We never had a vegetable contraband problem. Only drugs. But the inmates could buy from a list of acceptable items at the prison store. These items were often extorted, gambled for, etc.