>Users:   login   |  register       > email     > people    

Contraband be dammed!
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 07/02/2012

Damm bouchard Although a dam has many uses, flood control is probably the most common. We have been using dams for centuries as a way to maintain safety for citizens. Yet, many of us rarely think of the solid, silent barrier that keeps water where it should be until it breaks. Still, without it, many areas would be very different and less stable.

In that sense, corrections professionals everywhere are a wall of security. We are the unsung heroes in the criminal justice system that keep the public safe by serving as another unseen obstruction against the forces of lawlessness

Training is a very important part of what makes a corrections professional effective. There are so many parts of instruction that make up this whole. Communication skills, self defense and security threat group awareness are just a few of these. I believe that one of the most important, yet often overlooked, areas of instruction is contraband control.

In my training module “Wake up and smell the contraband”, I outline many concepts and strategies about the common persistence of smuggled goods in correctional institutions. Here are a few points about the nature of illicit trade:
  • Everything is for sale.
  • Contraband equals power. It allows anyone to purchase the services of others. Someone who is physically weak, with the help of contraband, can acquire protection. That makes anyone potentially formidable.
  • Contraband control is a never-ending proposition. Prisoners new to the system will test it as though it had never been tested. Older prisoners will patiently wait until classic modes have been forgotten. With the profit to be had, the lure will always be present.
  • Contraband lords are magnets for those who want to obtain associative power. Many inmates will hitch their wagon to the rising stars of bootleg entrepreneurs. The more successful a reputation, the more followers a contraband lord will have.
  • The greater the profits from commerce, the more difficulty in prisoner managements. For example, when something is eliminated from an area, the scarcity rives the prices up. If tobacco becomes officially forbidden in segregation units, the demand will remain the same, but the reward for traffickers increases. More prisoners will take risks. The catalyst is profit and increased power.
  • Old tricks recycle while new inventions of concealment and transport, though less frequent, continue. Seasoned professionals may take note, for example, of recurrent resurgences in certain methods. One might see the old hollowed-out book vehicle for contraband once in a few years. Through a career, we see fewer new methods as our collection of known modes expands with experience.
  • Exchanges and trafficking, when traced fully, are good indicators of dynamics. Documentation of the contraband trail may yield excellent discoveries of intelligence which may later buttress security.
  • To prisoners, contraband equals comfort.
  • Personnel will find a depressingly low number of all of the illicit items in a facility. Prisoners simply have ample time at their disposal to compose concealment ideas. That is neither fatalism nor defeatism, but realism. Facilities with alert, committed employees and proactive contraband control processes can improve on success ratios.
  • Foiling unauthorized commerce enhances security.

Of course, knowing a bit about the nature of contraband is just the first step in maintaining the dam that tirelessly holds back the potential flood of danger. There are many search methods and varying philosophies on the matter. Also, contraband control is not always a simple matter. It is not just stumbling across a discarded shank on the walk. When fully executed, it can be a multi-tiered, coordinated process.

Contraband control is a fundamental part of training for all corrections staff. It is a necessary component for the safety of staff, offenders and the public. Training on the topic of eliminating (or at least mitigating) illicit good in our facilities is really a way to maintain our wall of security against the plentiful and persistent erosive elements. Without it, we are really just an aging dam with cracks and an ominous future.

Corrections.com author, Joe Bouchard, writes and presents on many corrections topics. He is a Librarian at Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility within the Michigan Department of Corrections. He is also a member of the Board of Experts for The Corrections Professional, Editor of The Correctional Trainer and MCA Today, and an instructor of Corrections for Gogebic Community College. You can reach him at (906) 353-7070 ext 1321. He is also the author of three books including "Icebreakers III," the third in IACTP's series of training exercises books.

These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


  1. hamiltonlindley on 04/10/2020:

    Have you been hurt in an accident in Waco Temple or Killeen? Our personal injury lawyers will review your claim to examine if there is enough evidence to support a lawsuit. You may be eligible to file a personal injury claim if you were involved in an accident that was caused by the negligence of someone else. Our back injury accident attorney work with personal injury experts to understand how the accident has changed your life and what money you need to go forward.

  2. irish assassin on 07/16/2012:

    Sounds like someone has done more than a little bit of these "drugs".

  3. jamestown0509 on 07/08/2012:

    The author is talking about drugs and contraband in prisons and jails, not drugs or how to make them legal.

  4. Fred Davis on 07/06/2012:

    A good way to cut down on drug use is to deregulate illegal drugs. Another drug problem is how the pharmaceutical drug industry actually inhibits the cure of the natural body to restore itself by making adult children into "kids" in need of total transformation on perpetual drugs.. Creating in the minds of the public a crisis through fear the APA creates (invents) new psychological and emotional disorders that require more legal drugs to combat many perpetual disorders. Big bucks!

Login to let us know what you think

User Name:   


Forgot password?

correctsource logo

Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of The Corrections Connection User Agreement
The Corrections Connection ©. Copyright 1996 - 2024 © . All Rights Reserved | 15 Mill Wharf Plaza Scituate Mass. 02066 (617) 471 4445 Fax: (617) 608 9015