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Archive for December, 2012

Six contraband control concepts

December 15th, 2012

Contraband control is a topic that is fundamental to the safety of all in any correctional facility. Below are six concepts that may help place contraband as a whole in perspective. Above all, knowledge of contraband control in general will keep staff, offenders, and the public safer through vigilance.

Contraband is everywhere. From Alaska to Florida, bootleg will be found. Neither climate, nor region, nor jurisdiction will keep illegal items out of prisons and jails.

Contraband items are similar in every type of facility. You will find like items in the tiniest lock up to the largest maximum security facility. If you gather corrections professionals from all varieties of institutions, the stories will be fundamentally the same. Certainly, there may be more cell phones or tobacco in certain types of institutions than others, but both of these forbidden items exist in all types of corrections settings.

Contraband is dangerous, no matter the type. Obviously, a facility-made knife is sinister. There is no question of its utility. But, corrections professionals need to remember the little things, as well. A tiny stick of chewing gum can disable a lock. A staple can frustrate the efforts of someone accessing a door. The common betting slip, a seemingly innocuous piece of paper, is really a representation of the tip of the iceberg for violent transactions. All contraband had potential for danger because of what some offenders will do for to obtain and retain it.

There are many ways to thwart the ill effects of contraband. Battling contraband begins with the notion that the search is so much more than just stumbling upon a bit of bootleg and taking it out of circulation. The search can be a multi-step proposition augmented by technology and careful documentation. At its highest level, crime mapping methods can be utilized.

Cooperation and coordination tie it all together. The positive potential of our pooled knowledge and efforts is astounding. Searching one area multiple times does not address less frequently searched areas. Staff communication is the oil for the search machine. Methodical searches in all areas over the different times of the day will always reveal more dangerous items than serendipity.

Experience rules the mitigation of contraband. A crucial ingredient in any recipe for contraband control is the experience of staff. Old tricks recycle and old hiding places come and go out of vogue. It is true that new items and different twists may be added to the long list from year to year. However, it is the veteran contraband hound that recalls the concepts and removes the dangerous items.

May your facility be safer through contraband control.

Contraband Control

Contraband searches: Proactive and reactive

December 1st, 2012

Q. Will you find anything significant when you trace the origin of a particular contraband item?

A. Sometimes.

A contraband find is useful because we remove an illicit item from circulation. The bottom line says that the facility is just a bit safer because the item is out of the loop. Yet, we can look deeper for clues of other enterprises. It is often profitable to trace the origin of the contraband in order to see if it is linked to a larger enterprise.

Sometimes, we begin a search as a reaction to conditions. At other times, we plan to search a certain area of our own initiative. There are two categories of search. They are the Reactive Search and the Proactive Search. Both are useful in their own turn. Here are examples of each:

• Stumble upon – This is where one where one literally looks down and sees a dropped or discarded item. For example, you spot a cigarette butt on the walk in a facility that has been smoke free for years. The item can be in the open as intentionally abandoned property.
• Serendipity – For no reason at all, you decide to look in a trash can and find gambling slip. This is finding something en route to looking for something else. It can be likened to finding a handful fo change in your couch while seeking your television remote.
• Reaction to missing items – Large can lids are missing from the kitchen, for example, and the facility staff is assigned to find them.
• Informant information – A reliable source tells you of a spud juice enterprise.
• Anonymous information – An unsigned missive warns that there are shanks in a certain general population unit.
• Suspicious suspects – Two known security threat group prisoners are observed passing law books to one another in a furtive manner. Past behavior indicates that there may be instructions for a disturbance in the book.
• Patterns – Succession of bathroom breaks for many people in the same area prompts vigilance. The pattern raises a red flag.


• Routine search – It is the day to thoroughly search the commons area.
• Routine book search – It is law book delivery day and you proactively search all incoming and outgoing books in order to find evidence of communication and commerce.
• Commissary – It is one day after store day repayment of favors and bets will likely occur.
• Future traffic – The daily schedule indicates that there will soon be a successive flow of prisoner traffic and you sweep the area clean of any planned drop-and-pass items.
• Just after major events – The Super Bowl was on last night and you are prepared to remove unofficial tender from circulation

Knowing why we conduct the search as we conduct it may point to the origin of the trade. A simple delivery of a few Jolly Ranchers may be the tip of the iceberg in a gambling empire. Jolly Rancher wrappers may just be a case of littering.

Of course, just like the search itself, determining whether we conduct a proactive or reactive search may not mean a thing. Circumstances will dictate this. We may end up with no new information at all. Still, the important thing is that we continue the search and employ both reactive and proactive strategies as necessary.

Contraband Control