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Desperate Acts of Concealment
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 11/07/2011

Body search The toilet…

Under your tongue…

The rectum...

Under an insole of old shoe…

What do these things have in common? These are places where prisoners will hide many varieties of contraband.

These are frequently utilized hiding spots, however. They are used because staff are less likely search in those locations. Why is that?

First, the gross out factor is strong in these places and places like them. There's much discussion, for example, about the concealing utility of the rectum. In reality, this is not a place that the forces arrayed against contraband readily volunteered to search. When one considers how easy it is to smuggle rolled cigarettes under the insole of the shoe, it is a wonder why that they are not search more frequently. Perhaps we're thinking it is inconceivable that anyone was smoke of foot cigarette. It is simply too unsanitary.

Second, traditional business regulations are out the window in this setting. There are no rules governing the storage of bootleg. Because tobacco in prison fetches such a high price, enterprising traders have no qualms about using the sub sole method to transport. Since there is a market, there will be traders. The better the mode of concealment, the better the business.

Third, demand is present. Consider the allure of getting high for many. The pill trade is always active in the institutional setting. If the demand is strong enough and scarcity is high, the consumer appreciates the product. This is true even if the pill was stored in the rectum or someone else's mouth. In other words, when someone wants a pill to alter their state, they don't generally care where it was previously.

Fourth, most of us simply don't think in these terms. That is to say, it generally will not occur to us to hide hard candies or lip balm in one's hindquarters. One colleague recalls a moment like this. He started as an officer in a jail in an urban area – a very large lock-up. On one of his first days at work, an inmate tested the limits of his professionalism. He offered the new officer a nice, cool carton of milk. He did this as he pulled in 8 ounce container of liquid out of his toilet tank. To be certain, the young office though it was gross. But the unorthodox storage is practical. The milk was kept cool. And new staff do not yet look at the world through contraband control goggles.

Fifth, in the back of most of our minds is the taboo factor. Tucking paper currency, for example, in a nether region strikes most of us as forbidden. This is a step just beyond unlikely or unbelievable. The truth is, many forces drive the inside market. To the trader, “Damn the taboos!” Conventional norms do not apply in the desperate game of contraband trading.

There are many things that staff can do the slow the pace of contraband trading by addressing these hiding spots:
  • Try to imagine the degrading places someone would hide something and over to make a profit.
  • Remember the Siren song of profit for most offenders.
  • Remove your inhibitions in your thinking. It is perfectly fine that you would never smoke a cigarette that spent hours and someone shoot. However, you should not assume that others would not do that very thing.
  • Keep a list of concealment tricks in your head.
  • Don't mistake appearance for potential action. Just because offender dresses neatly and has good hygiene does not mean that he will not resort to hiding or consuming items in foul places.
  • Don't forget to use universal precautions. I know that this seems obvious, but is not employed at all of the time by all staff. Through the course of the week, be mindful of colleagues who don't don gloves during a search. You might be surprised at the results. You must assume that everything is dirty.
  • Remember that people do things unintentionally. That could be detrimental. Some place pens in their mouths out of habit, for example. Others might eat their lunch at their desks or in a work area, placing food on unclean surfaces. Still others may use their mouths as a third hand, holding paper with their lips because of a lack of desk space or out of convenience.


  • Habits are habits and germs are germs. Some prisoners will risk exposure in order to move or consume contraband. It is a fact of institutional life. Knowing this, staff can protect themselves and remove contraband from circulations. Always remember that the demand is high enough that some prisoners will resort to desperate acts of concealment.

    Visit the Joe Bouchard page

    Other articles by Bouchard:


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