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Information vessels as contraband
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 10/12/2009

Walnutusbdrive Finding a specific contraband item in any facility can be difficult. As a matter of fact, it is not unlike finding a specific tree in a forest. Often, we are sometimes faced with the task of locating a very specialized, elusive item.

Quick! Without thinking, name a contraband item. What did you say? Shank? Tattoo gun? Betting slips? Whatever your answer, it probably was blurted out rapidly. Like word association, ideas come quickly. Quite simply, everyone can describe a tangible example of contraband when asked.

What about something less than obvious? Can contraband be almost conceptual? If one thinks of information as contraband, then it certainly can be.

Consider that contraband is anything that can be traded by offenders for another good or service. For example, an offender overhears one staff member tell another that she is going through a painful divorce. The enterprising offender could use this informational tidbit to compromise the staff person through a variety of tactics. It may be through a direct confrontation, feigned commiseration, or by selling the information to another prisoner. In the end, the exchange of information for something else is a transaction.

Of course, trading is an avenue to power. Prisoners with something of value can become more comfortable through barter. And the enterprising inmates can even build trading empires with a variety of goods and services offered. And when a prisoner holds sway over others, favors such as assaults can be bartered. That is one of the real dangers of corrections.

Now let’s return to the tangible. True, information can be nebulous and difficult to track. However, there are information vessels beyond one’s memory. In days past, paper was the only non-memory means of storing information. As time marched on, information was stored on type writers with memory functions. In addition, varieties of discs served to store information.

Beyond the floppy disc are two more elusive menaces. They are the thumb drive and the cell phone.

Prisoners that have computer access can simply insert a small thumb into the USB port. This is a new menace because compromising photos can be stored and retrieved. Also, the storage capacity is vast compared to the size of the information vessel.

And the cell phone, as discussed elsewhere, is a potentially dangerous weapon in the hands of prisoners. The obvious tie to information is that it can be transmitted quickly through text or via voice. But many forget that cell phones with picture and film capacities can capture a moment and can also be forwarded quite easily. Lastly, smart phones with internet capabilities can deliver sensitive information to offenders, such as weapons making and self-defense techniques, to name a few.

Technology can be used to battle technology. There are many detection devices that can assist staff in the battle to find contraband. And even with the advent of these remarkable techniques, dogs can be utilized to locate cell phones through the olfactory sense.

And the tried and true non-technological means of uncovering bootleg still apply to the search. Simple vigilance and the search remain as valid safety methods.

Information is power. Those who seek power know this and find ways to circumvent staff searches. Fortunately, dedicated staff also know that information is a form of contraband and battle every day to defeat it.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page


  1. Best Jail.com on 10/16/2009:

    I never thought about the cell phone sending pictures and being a way to find out how to make weapons but all of this information is on those smart phones because they do have internet access and the majority of them do take pictures. Taking pictures would be a law suit waiting to happen. I understand better why we are not allowed to bring cell phones inside the jail because there would be some soft employee that would let them use their phone or some careless person losing theirs........Thanks for the post.

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