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The property officer: An overlooked resource for contraband control
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 02/22/2010

Peanutbutter What my colleague found was like a concoction of an amoral, drug-dealing candy maker. It was truly ingenious in a simple sort of way. At first, I could not believe it. Yet, my friend, who works as a property officer in another facility, assured me that there were heroin candies made to look exactly like a major brand of goodies. My sardonic thought was , “Plain” peanut, or narcotic?”

I am fortunate in that there is never a shortage of contraband stories. Just when you think you have heard them all, another comes down the pike and smacks you in the brain. There is nothing like a shattering of one’s security to heighten one’s alertness.

Through my writings and the book “Wake up and Smell the Contraband”, I have been known in many corrections circles as the contraband control guy. But, it would be foolish (and selfish) of me to claim all knowledge that I obtained on the topic was harvested through pure contemplation and solely through my own experience. My information base is continually expanding through knowledgeable people with the common goal of mitigation or elimination of the insidious monster of contraband in our facilities. It is comforting that corrections staff from all over share ways to uncover bootleg.

One notable colleague who shares stories with me is the property officer mentioned above. Not only is he in a good spot to discover many new tricks, he also has a curious mind. I suspect that he is a tinkerer and has a good dose of mechanical reasoning. Furthermore, he has an inclination to share information with interested colleagues. Because of this, I am grateful.

Through him, I learned about the utility of peanut butter as a concealer. That is to say, containers of peanut butter can store many dangerous and forbidden items beneath the intended product. All one needs to do is smooth over the peanut butter on top after positioning the bootleg.

He told me that petroleum jelly or other permissible lotions are excellent vessels for hiding things. He reported that contrabandists use the lotion/petroleum jelly in the same manner as the peanut butter. However, heat can assist in the concealment. For example, forbidden dice can be neatly wrapped in a small plastic wrap (available in any kitchen), and placed in the middle of the petroleum jelly. As the ointment is not forbidden, as is usually not suspect. And any mild heat source coupled with gravity will gradually smooth the jelly, giving it the look of no tampering. (please see “Paradise (or pair of dice) inside the walls” - May 7th, 2009 on the Joe Bouchard Foundations page at www.corrections.com)

These are just a few examples of the smuggler ingenuity that he has discovered and shared with me. It was just on a chance email to me that we connected on this topic. Because of his willingness to share ideas, I have been able to raise awareness of safety on a topic that interests me.

So, Dear Reader, while there are many of our colleagues who know a thing or two about contraband control, do not overlook the property officers. They see all of the transferring property and so many of the tricks.

We all know that corrections is a large family. And this particularly shows when one of our own is striken down in the line of duty. It is held together by common experiences and a desire to maintain and improve our corner of the criminal justice system. I admit that the effort that goes into my articles is my own. My drive to illustrated through words and presentations is inherent and something that comes from a need to promote safety for all. However, I have plenty of help. And for that, I thank those in the corrections family who give me new ideas.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page


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  2. corrections1 on 03/25/2010:

    i have been in corrections for three years and have found many contriband items. the newest place we have been finding cell phones is in speed stick deoderant bottles and food containerssuch as the microwaveable item. one we found had a second plastic bottom glued on to it so it looked like it had not been opened.

  3. Striker on 02/28/2010:

    I know we have inmates put things in kool-aid bottles as well as peanut butter

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