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Archive for the ‘Contraband Control’ Category

Contraband is contraband

October 28th, 2012

Offenders come and go, but the shared goal of contrabandists is pretty much constant: To use goods and services to enhance power and personal comfort while incarcerated. Following are six points to ponder.

Contraband is contraband. As you consider the following, remember that though something looks innocuous, it may be part of something larger. Danger is possible through a chain of events or associations. The potential for peril is not lessened because of staff perceptions of “little, nuisance contraband”. Contraband is contraband, no matter the style, immediate apparent value, or size.

Is an item innocent? For example, though gum and pop containers are clearly not shanks, they are potentially dangerous. Chewed gum, applied correctly, can disable locks. Soft drink containers can store noxious, intoxicating and/or disgusting liquid agents. Corrections staff should remind themselves from time to time that everything has a use.
Watch your trash. That which we throw away can be used to compromise the safety of those that we work with rather than those that we watch. Proper disposal of items that we take for granted is crucial. Remember the seemingly innocent often is not.

Ingenuity is alive and well. Here is another uncomfortable corrections fact: If we can conceive it, offenders can probably create it. If we can imagine a simple candy box turning into a weapon, then some weapons-smith somewhere is doing it right now in some facility. The deodorant container, for example, may contain deodorant. Then again, it may not.

Out of sight does not mean out of danger. Consider the lock in a sock. If combination and padlocks were to be removed from the permitted property list, an alternative would be found. Out of sight might mean out of mind. But out of sight does not mean out of danger. Peril exists, no matter how many restrictions are imposed by policy. Just because an item should not be in the facility does not mean that it will not be hidden for another time.

Be realistic. It is best that we apply another contraband control law: “Staff should remain realistic.” The realism of contraband control is important to retain. There’ll always be danger, no matter how well we search. Staff who believe that we’ll find everything in each and every triumphant sweep are bound to become discouraged. This is not to cast a negative shadow over the concept. It is, however, a way to honestly assess the general nature of contraband control.

Collect and remember ticks played upon us. If we do not remember where new concealment tricks, we ultimately make our task more difficult later. While we will not find everything, it is up to us to look, record, and eliminate future bootlegging opportunities.

An example lies in prison-made alcohol. It is no secret that some offenders will constantly try to cook spud juice or its inebriating cousins under our collective nose. On the face of it, these enterprises should be easy to find. But, realistically, we are often surprised by the clever manner in which the hooch manufacturing was concealed.

Staff do battle every day to keep facilities safe from contraband traders. Every contraband control trick we learn is valuable, even those we stumble upon a due to a poorly executed plan.

In the end, the contraband search can be very tedious and very difficult. However staff members that are vigilant, tenacious, and realistic will pull enough bootleg out of the system in order to make the facility safer for staff, offenders and the public.

joebouchard Contraband Control

Food service staff as partners in contraband control

October 1st, 2012

Food service staff in correctional facilities have the awesome responsibility of ensuring that quality meals are prepared and delivered to hundreds of people. This happens three times a day, all year long – regardless of the state of equipment.

But, in this relentless preparation of meals for hundreds, there is a potential for profound danger. This comes in two basic forms, barter and weapons. This double threat can be common in the kitchen area. Quite simply, there is a huge potential for the contrabandist in the food service area. Because of this, food service staff are important partners in contraband control efforts.

Food as barter. Food and items acquired from the kitchen can be used as barter. Food can be used as contraband, mostly in the way of trade for other goods and services. Extra rations can be promised by prisoner workers in exchange for protection, sex, as a payoff for gambling, etc. There are also many raw materials in the kitchen that can be used to produce prison-made alcohol.

Kitchen weapons. Materials to create weapons often originate from the kitchen. They can be made from discarded cans, altered equipment, and packaging. There are many other opportunities to acquire weapons. Staff patterns are scrutinized by enterprising prisoners to discern the perfect occasion to loosen unessential steel or plastic. If it moves, it will dislodge. If it dislodges, it is a weapon. The kitchen is not free of hazard.

Like other non-custody staff, food service staff perform three particular roles in contraband control. They feed the information machine, relate tales of contraband to newer staff, and monitor the work patterns of prisoners on assignment in the kitchen.

Even in this busy and potentially dangerous part of the facility, food service workers are inherently security-minded. They can be valuable as intelligence gatherers. The observant food steward sees who dines with whom and notes who no longer dines with whom. Also, prisoner kitchen worker dynamics can be interpreted. All notable occurrences should be reported to other food service staff, officers, and up the chain of command. Also, those food service workers with institutional intuition can share feelings of uneasiness.

Effective food service staff seek and report contraband in order to keep a safe area of control. Maintaining a strong presence and employing overt and covert searches accomplishes this. It also includes cooperation and rapport with custody staff and the inspector.

Contraband control is a difficult and sometimes lonely task. If the ultimate goal is to maintain a safe institution for staff to work and prisoners to live, then all staff should participate actively in this vital duty. Contraband control is not just for officers. The more staff that assist in this, the safer the facility will be.

joebouchard Contraband Control

The overt search for contraband

September 8th, 2012

Contraband is everywhere. Whatever the form or amount, it is always potentially dangerous in a correctional facility.

An important instrument in the fight against contraband is the physical search. In its most basic form, it is a visual inspection of the any area of control. Two kinds of searches are overt and covert searches. This is a choice that will depend on the circumstance.

During an overt search, staff are not masking the fact that they are looking for contraband. It is not a stealthy sting. The overt search is meant to be seen by prisoners.

The overt search has many benefits. Among them are:

Impression. The overt, or the open search. is partly for show. If you want to allow prisoners to see that you are taking part in the actual search, the overt search is best. It may be that staff will want to paint an obvious picture. The message is that they intend to keep the area clear of items intended for illicit trade. If one prisoner sees the prominent display of examination, then it is likely that the prison grapevine will inform others of such. Overt searches can be timed for peak prisoner traffic times. The desired result is that news of the search will disseminate.

Deterrent. Prisoners may abort or suspend future plans for hiding or trading contraband in a certain place if they see staff combing the area regularly. The well-watched area is not the place to risk valuable goods. The overt search may serve as the inspiration for prisoners to remove well-hidden contraband from the area.

Serendipity. There is always the surprise of finding something unexpectedly. And, the overt search might just produce a clue to some other institutional mystery. By looking for nothing in particular, staff might unearth something that helps solve a riddle that has plagued the inspector for some time.

There are many cautions to consider when employing the overt search. Sometimes it just is not appropriate for staff to make prisoners aware of the search. For example, there may be a danger in prisoners knowing that staff will search a particular area. Or, an obvious search may thwart the time and effort invested in a lengthy investigation already in progress. If stealth is more appropriate for the situation, the covert method of search is preferred.

Also, those that use the overt method should not just go through the motions of the shakedown. If you are searching, you should actually look. You should not pretend to inspect.

Adept prisoners may be able to see through a feigned search. If it is believed that the search is just for show, some may challenge the level of scrutiny. They may test the thoroughness of staff by planting something with little value (sacrifice contraband) in an obvious place. After the overt search, they would arrange to check if the planted item was disturbed.

And, prisoners may reason that if an overt search has been performed, it may take a while before the next time the area is scheduled to be examined. They may believe that areas are not necessarily searched randomly, but in a rigid order.

Despite the cautions surrounding the overt search, it is still an important corrections tool. Any search is time and effort invested into institutional safety for staff and prisoners. Searches for contraband are indispensable in the workday of all corrections staff.

joebouchard Contraband Control

Battling contraband from outside the secure perimeter

August 11th, 2012

The fundamental safety tactic of contraband control is part of everyone’s duty. You don’t have to wear a uniform or be inside the secure perimeter of the facility in order to assist in the security of the institution.
Those working outside the secure perimeter can assist in the battle against the adverse effects of illicit goods.
While those outside the secure perimeter cannot fully participate in the psychical search for contraband inside, they can perform three particular roles in contraband control. They can feed the information machine, relate tales of contraband from earlier phases of their careers, and look at the work patterns of prisoner porters.
Feed the information machine. Assisting in intelligence gathering is easy. Mailroom staff are ideally positioned to do this. Staff may receive or intercept correspondence from prisoners that contain nuggets of information. This knowledge would be routed to the inspector.
Tales of contraband. Some staff working outside of the secure perimeter have corrections experience inside. They are acclimated to how some prisoners may move illicit goods. They may even be aware of specific older prisoners in the system. Staff who formerly worked within the secure perimeter know of the many possible unauthorized activities through experience. Also, cautionary tales and other accounts of contraband can be told for the benefit of newer staff. On the face of it, this does not appear to be as helpful as the actual psychical search. But, talking about contraband to newer staff assists in getting them to think about what could happen.
Watching prisoners. Those outside the gates should scrutinize the patterns of the prisoner porters. Contraband travels between levels of custody and institutions. Lower custody level prisoner porters in your work area may be vehicles for bootleg. They are not exempt from analysis. Ask yourself, does one prisoner porter clean the staff bathroom then another porter enters that bathroom immediately? Is this place a drop and pass location? Is there a loose floor molding or hand dryer that could serve as hiding spot for contraband?

Non-custody staff outside the secure perimeter can be of great value in identifying and reporting contraband movement patterns. Their intelligence gathering can lend the information necessary to stop dangerous enterprises. In doing so, they make it safer for staff, prisoners, and the public.

joebouchard Contraband Control

Working definitions of contraband

July 21st, 2012

As Justice Potter Stewart said of obscenity so many years ago, “…I know it when I see it.” [1] While memorable, that simply points out the difficulties in explaining concepts.

When we think of contraband, the same idea of “I know it when I see it” may seem to work as a definition on the surface. However, with the possible sanctions and increased security levels on the table, an offender may naturally contest the definition.

What is the big deal about defining bootleg? Corrections staff want a solid definition so that the rules of their facility can be enforced. The less ambiguity there is, the more likely a misconduct report will successfully be processed. With that comes increased safety for offenders, staff and the public. Quite simply, contraband control increases safety for all.

However, not all agencies use the same definition of contraband. Here is one definition:

“Contraband is any illegal good. It is something that is not permitted in the facility. It is anything prohibited by law, rule, or policy. It is someone else’s property, purloined or borrowed or authorized property in excessive amounts. Contraband can be permitted items that have been altered without permission.”[2]

By that definition we can compile a list of specific items that could be considered contraband. However, one professional’s list of forbidden items may be contested. Among those who could disagree are other professionals, including the facility’s Hearings Officer, offenders, and the courts. Never-the-less, it is not an empty exercise to analyze elements of the definition in more concrete terms.

Any illegal good-
No one – the incarcerated and the free general public – is permitted to possess narcotics. Certain weapons are forbidden even to collectors. These sorts of contraband are rather easy to define. If it is illegal in the free world, it is definitely contraband in the hands of offenders.

Not permitted in the facility-
While most members of the general public have a cell phone, they are increasingly forbidden in most facilities. In fact, only certain staff under very special conditions may possess cell phones in certain worksites. The dangers of cell phones in the hands of enterprising inmates has been explained in other places [3]. But it was not until the item was officially forbidden in the facility in written form that the definition became clearer.

Another example of something not permitted in a facility but is still legal for the general public to possess is a pocket knife or a registered hand gun. Duct tape is another example of something easily obtained by citizens but verboten for offenders.

Someone else’s property (purloined)-
Prisoners are not allowed to take others’ property. If an offender has an mp3 player that belongs to another prisoner, then it could be considered contraband. The same is true of clothing, books, papers, and just about any other personal item.

Some stolen items are harder to define as belonging to another. For example, it is always difficult to track the food items officially purchased from the commissary then unofficially re-appropriated in the prisoner population.

Someone else’s property (with permission)-
When we find an offender in possession of another’s property, it can be considered contraband. Often, the holder will state that he has permission for the other offender. However, if your agency has it in policy, offenders may not officially loan items to others.

The number on a coat that a prisoner wears should match his identification number.

Authorized property in excessive amounts-
In correctional facilities, the unauthorized economy is in constant flux. Incarcerated entrepreneurs rise and fall with the steady undulations of supply and circumstances. Therefore, it is not unusual to discover hoards of items hidden in cells and often surprising storage areas. Prisoners may have official permission to possess certain items. But when the authorized item is held in excess, it may be contraband.

Would, for example, a prisoner really need to have sixteen rolls of toilet paper in his cell at one time? Can twenty boxes of snack cakes indicate an extreme sweet tooth or the tip of the iceberg for a trade operation? Are many pills a sign of a careful consumer or someone who has systematically concealed medication under the tongue? Is a large stack of metered envelopes or copious stamps the mark of a prolific letter writer or another method of exchange? All of these can be answered by what the agency’s policy and /or the Hearings Officer define as “excessive”.

Altered items-
One can see many strange in a correctional facility. The ingenuity and improvisation is staggering at times. It may be as simple as a shirt sleeve fashioned into a cap. From dozens of chewing gum wrappers an interesting photograph frame may be crafted. A sculpture can be made from soap and paper towel. These are just a few examples of seemingly innocuous items that were altered from their original purpose.

What about dangerous items? Eye glasses frames can be modified into a piercing weapon. Newspaper can be moistened, formed, dried, and made into a club. Staples and adhesive bandages can be transformed into a prickly and dangerous set of knuckle enhancing weapons.

All of this does not say in strict terms what shall always be considered contraband. These are just a few examples in a vast sea of possibilities. In the end, it may be that we know an item is contraband just because we know it when we see it. However, the official explanations provided by your agency should make that item easier to define.

[1] 01/10/2010
[2]-Wake up and smell the contraband: A Guide to Improving Prison Safety. (2nd edition) Horsham PA: LRP Publications, 2005, by Joseph Bouchard.
[3] Bouchard, Joe “Cell phones – The new contraband” May 4, 2009.

joebouchard Contraband Control

Contraband be dammed!

June 27th, 2012

Although a dam has many uses, flood control is probably the most common. We have been using dams for centuries as a way to maintain safety for citizens. Yet, many of us rarely think of the solid, silent barrier that keeps water where it should be until it breaks. Still, without it, many areas would be very different and less stable.
In that sense, corrections professionals everywhere are a wall of security. We are the unsung heroes in the criminal justice system that keep the public safe by serving as another unseen obstruction against the forces of lawlessness.

Training is a very important part of what makes a corrections professional effective. There are so many parts of instruction that make up this whole. Communication skills, self defense and security threat group awareness are just a few of these. I believe that one of the most important, yet often overlooked, areas of instruction is contraband control.

In my training module “Wake up and smell the contraband”, I outline many concepts and strategies about the common persistence of smuggled goods in correctional institutions. Here are a few points about the nature of illicit trade:
• Everything is for sale.
• Contraband equals power. It allows anyone to purchase the services of others. Someone who is physically weak, with the help of contraband, can acquire protection. That makes anyone potentially formidable.
• Contraband control is a never-ending proposition. Prisoners new to the system will test it as though it had never been tested. Older prisoners will patiently wait until classic modes have been forgotten. With the profit to be had, the lure will always be present.
• Contraband lords are magnets for those who want to obtain associative power. Many inmates will hitch their wagon to the rising stars of bootleg entrepreneurs. The more successful a reputation, the more followers a contraband lord will have.
• The greater the profits from commerce, the more difficulty in prisoner managements. For example, when something is eliminated from an area, the scarcity rives the prices up. If tobacco becomes officially forbidden in segregation units, the demand will remain the same, but the reward for traffickers increases. More prisoners will take risks. The catalyst is profit and increased power.
• Old tricks recycle while new inventions of concealment and transport, though less frequent, continue. Seasoned professionals may take note, for example, of recurrent resurgences in certain methods. One might see the old hollowed-out book vehicle for contraband once in a few years. Through a career, we see fewer new methods as our collection of known modes expands with experience.
• Exchanges and trafficking, when traced fully, are good indicators of dynamics. Documentation of the contraband trail may yield excellent discoveries of intelligence which may later buttress security.
• To prisoners, contraband equals comfort.
• Personnel will find a depressingly low number of all of the illicit items in a facility. Prisoners simply have ample time at their disposal to compose concealment ideas. That is neither fatalism nor defeatism, but realism. Facilities with alert, committed employees and proactive contraband control processes can improve on success ratios.
• Foiling unauthorized commerce enhances security.

Of course, knowing a bit about the nature of contraband is just the first step in maintaining the dam that tirelessly holds back the potential flood of danger. There are many search methods and varying philosophies on the matter. Also, contraband control is not always a simple matter. It is not just stumbling across a discarded shank on the walk. When fully executed, it can be a multi-tiered, coordinated process.

Contraband control is a fundamental part of training for all corrections staff. It is a necessary component for the safety of staff, offenders and the public. Training on the topic of eliminating (or at least mitigating) illicit good in our facilities is really a way to maintain our wall of security against the plentiful and persistent erosive elements. Without it, we are really just an aging dam with cracks and an ominous future.

joebouchard Contraband Control

Running the long race of contraband control

June 16th, 2012

An important benefit of contraband control is safety for the public, staff, and offenders. That does not mean that it is easy. Not all searches are quick and uncomplicated sprints. The quest for safety through the search sometimes seems like running a series of marathons that you will never finish.

On occasion, while conducting a large-scale search of the library shelves, a song pops in my mind. It is about what goes through the mind of a long distance runner. The piece of music is appropriate, as it highlights a seemingly impossible task. Here are some truisms of the search that are brought to the fore by the song.

It seems futile – Imagine searching for a single needle in a thousand hay stacks and you are only at haystack number 498. When we look up from a long-term job and see that we are less than half way done, it can be disheartening. This is especially true if the search comes up empty. The danger in this is the feeling of futility. Hopelessness compromises the quality of the investigation. Because we have found nothing so far, we reason that nothing will be found and use shortcuts. Ultimately, nothing may be found. However, an important part of the process is in the comforting certainty of thoroughness.

The task never seems to end – The long distance runner may ask, “Who keeps moving the finish line back?” This reminds me of the Mackinac Bridge that joins the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. That bridge spans five miles. You see crews painting it starting on the north end. It seems that when they finally reach the south end, the paint on the north side is worn and needs to be redone. This is like going through a large area with many hiding places. Once you complete the lengthy task, it needs to be restarted because of the time that has passed.

Determination is the driving force – Often, we will find nothing as the search progresses. Yet, if we skimp on the search, we compromise the process. It is like a thorough hunt through your house in pursuit of missing car keys. Looking in the obvious place is one strategy. If that fails, a systematic, complete search must follow. That is where determination comes in.

It is imperative to continue - Sometimes determination is buttressed by necessity. If you are trying to find your car keys at home, you know that you must succeed. Otherwise, you cannot use the vehicle and it simply becomes an expensive, immobile, three thousand pound weight on your driveway. In corrections, reports of a weapon in a certain area heralds necessity. For the sake of safety for all, it is necessary that the search be conducted.

We are all long distance runners in the search for contraband control. The track is long and the task never seems to be done. Unlike the marathoner, we never cross the final finish line until we retire. Contraband control is a series of long races. When we complete a race, there is another one to do. Stamina and persistence are tools that help us run the long race of safety.

joebouchard Contraband Control

The role of communication in contraband control

May 11th, 2012

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is the best contraband available to staff?” In various incarnations of the presentation that I deliver called Wake up and Smell the Contraband, I have asked participants their many opinions of what is the best contraband control tool. Some of offered these as top candidates: mirrors on telescoping handles, metal detectors, cell phone detectors, and drug sniffing dogs. These are just a few of the many answers offered.

All of those have somewhat specialized functions. Still, there is an answer that is consistently offer that is neither mechanical nor electronic. And I’ve heard these answers in formal and informal queries from jail and prison staff. This tool transcends all levels and agencies geographical limits. And it is an answer that has remained consistent over the years. The tool of choice for many corrections professionals is communications.

In the war against contraband where safety is our major goal, communications is useful for many reasons:
• It is already built into the system. There is an official chain of command which information flows. Also unofficial vines snake through our operations. When any contraband tip is uncovered, the staff body who communicates well will disseminate the information to all corners.
• Communications is not just conducted in verbal mode. It can also be done electronically. E-mail is nothing new to corrections. However, with digital cameras information flows from screen to screen with pictorial clarity. Clarity comes in different forms and in different potencies. Less is lost in translation with the written and picture communications.
• In addition, there is permanence with electronic record. It is something that can be reviewed long after it is initially sent.
• Communication opens up professional synapses. As information is conveyed, different parties can add stories and ideas. This is a sort of brainstorming and recollection that aids in the contraband control process. Staff benefit as the data travels. The more stories and information, the better store of tools.
• Staff communication has a wider potential than is normally employed. Communication should be expanded in those cases. We should always remember to disseminate two different shifts, different areas, and other institutions. Sometimes, news of something found in food services on midnights does not make it to for example, the library. This could be a critical error if materials from library are used for the enterprise in the kitchen. If all parties are not notified, preventative measures are less likely to occur. That example points to the interconnectedness of operations. In short there is never too much information about contraband between staff.

Of course, with all jobs there are certain tools that need to be employed. And while communications is a very important component in the toolbox is safety, it is not the only tool. However, when used in conjunction with crime mapping shared observations and various search tactics, our chances for enhancing safety in our facilities is increased.

joebouchard Contraband Control

Contraband – the rat and tiger question

December 1st, 2011

Here’s a question that I’m sure you don’t hear very often. Would you rather:

A. …be slowly eaten alive by rats?


B. …be torn apart by a tiger?

While both are not likely, the choice with the rats is more possible for most of us. Being torn apart by a tiger is not very likely because they are so rare. So, are rats more dangerous than tigers? If probabilities are accounted for, the danger lies with the rats

Let’s apply this to our ever-present problem of contraband control. Is a rare, technological wonder like a miniature recording device more dangerous than a gambling slip? Does a weapon of intricate design hold more peril for corrections professionals than a razor melted into a toothbrush handle?

Recently, someone outside of the corrections profession asked me about the most ingenious bit of bootleg that I have ever heard of. I will admit that the use of watches with cell phones and mini recorders came to mind first. The crossbow constructed from a chess set brought the notion of dangerous ingenuity to my mind. Other examples of these fiendishly clever items include the narcotic filled candy bar and a crayon drawing laced with controlled substances.

Those items, while rare, either directly or indirectly pose a great danger to staff, the public, and offenders.

Then I thought of smaller, common items found inside our facilities. In its own way, forbidden dice and tobacco may cause trading schemes or even be the tip of an iceberg to a gambling ring. Many dangers surround those ventures. And small, common items wielded by a enterprising prisoner, have their own perilous nature.

It is a question like the tiger and the rat. Certainly, and individual rat will do much less damage than a rare and obviously dangerous tiger. So it is a matter of frequencies, probabilities, and perhaps it being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One may never have to consider a plastic pistol smuggled into a lock up. However, when it is in your face, it is on the forefront of one’s mind.

It is easy to think of low level, nuisance contraband as the rat. The tiger is the exotic, rare thing that one may find only once in a career. In terms of numbers, knowing how to snare a tiger is less important than knowledge of rat trapping.

As luck would have it, however, trapping the tiger and trapping the rat can be done with the same methods. All of the tools that we employ in our normal contraband control procedures, if done right, will defeat or at least frightened both beasts. Of course, they are:
• Vigilance
• the overt search
• the covert search
• communication between staff
• documentation
• reading the signs
• listening to offenders with the “inside ear”
• persistence
• drawing upon your own experience and that of others
• research of the literature
• Internet searches

In the end, rare and ingenious contraband items and common bits of bootleg are the same in at least one respect. Both can be dangerous. The frequency in which we encounter any specific item is not as important as the idea that these items are the root of dangers. Whether an item is rare or not, the prisoner who wields it usually has an unfair advantage. With that they can dictate favors, arrange for unauthorized comforts, and build the power base. It is the duty of staff to eliminate or at least lessen the opportunities for enterprising inmates to create, trade, and use contraband. The safety of all inside depends on this.

joebouchard Contraband Control

The Contraband Nerd versus the Contrabandist

November 22nd, 2011

In late April of 2011, I published the article called “The Contraband Nerd”. This essay outlined the variety of enthusiastic, talented staff who excel at uncovering dangerous items in our correctional facilities.

Contraband Nerd was defined in that article in this way:
1. A person who is enthusiastically and diligently engaged in discovering unusual uses for ordinary items,
2. A focused corrections professional who strives to understand contraband control methods and whose goal is to enhance safety,
3. A devoted corrections professional with a talent for discovering illegal schemes that utilize bootleg.
Recently, a colleague outside of corrections asked me about the Contraband Nerd. Perhaps the idea wasn’t conveyed as well as it could have been. She mistakenly thought that the Contraband Nerd could be a prisoner. I suppose that they may be two side of a staff/prisoner coin. In the purest terms, both of these would have opposite aims.
This is not about name calling, nor is it about simple labeling. In fact you could call staff Contraband Nerd, Contraband Hound, or any number of terms. Objectively, a prisoner who excels in trading or finding different utilities for common items could be called the Contrabandist. I would simply like to expand the definition a bit.
For the sake of this piece, let us suppose that the term Contraband Nerd applies solely to staff. Also assume that the term Contrabandist applies strictly to offenders. Let’s take a quick look at some of the differing roles and goals of the Contraband Nerd and the Contrabandist:

Contraband Nerd is a staff person who:
• eliminating danger from the facility
• keeping safe staff, public, and prisoners
• searching appropriately – using the overt search to demonstrate that the area is regularly looked over and using the covert search to uncover bootleg while prisoners are not looking
• communicating finds with staff
• documenting finds
• collecting concealment tricks in order that contrabandist can be foiled in the future
• educating interested staff in the ways of contraband control
• analyzing trading trends to better maintain safety
• using crime mapping on contraband incidents where resources permit and philosophies insist
Contrabandist are prisoners who:
• making his or her stay as an incarcerated person as comfortable as possible – no matter the cost
• thwarting the efforts of staff to discover illicit trade
• using wherever means possible in order to maintain trading enterprise or contraband empire
• accepting whichever trading alliances are available, even if the philosophies of both affiliated groups or individuals seem diametrically opposed
• getting the highest price for each item
• bartering, negotiating, coercing, enforcing all avenues of trade

Looking at the two very different archetypes, they truly are like opposing sides of an argument. Members of both of these groups are in a constant tug-of-war for the safety of a facility and all those contained within. It is a struggle that will never end. Both parties have vested interests and are not likely to completely abandon their desired outcomes. I believe that it behooves staff to reflect on their inner Contraband Nerd. Your contribution to the battle against illicit trading may ultimately save your life.

joebouchard Contraband Control