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Archive for October, 2012

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