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It’s nothing personal: Seven reasons we commit to contraband control
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 12/24/2012

Contrabandtrunk It is interesting what you may stumble upon as you search for other things. For example, I discovered news of a French Canadian alcohol smuggler from the 1890’s called “Notorious” Bouchard. For me, it inspired visions of ancient trunks with bootleg concealed within. I learned this from the publication The Quebec Saturday Budget - Jul 30, 1892.

As a Bouchard, I took notice of the last name. Also, I am very interested in contraband – though I prefer to eliminate it, unlike the contrabandist “Notorious” Bouchard from years past.

If you have read this far, I ask that you excuse the personal musings. The point is: part of your mission or professional quest might be tied to personal reasons. Allow me to point out that my quest for contraband control is not predicated on personal reasons. My resolve to enhance safety has nothing to do with the illegal actions of someone who shares my last name from 120 years ago. True, the story of “Notorious” Bouchard is interesting and ironic to me. However, it is not crucial for my quest. In other words, I search for contraband for a variety of reasons that are NOT personal.

As you review the list below, think of what motivates you to sweep illicit operations from your institution. Professionals motivations typically fall under the large category of safety. Some of my motivations are:
  1. Leveling the playing field – Let’s face it. Offenders have ample time to craft new ideas for concealment of valuable but illegal items. A comprehensive contraband control program is the antidote to this. We pool our professional resources to thwart the pervasive trade that chips away our secure foundation of security.
  2. Investment in the now – It is crucial to remove dangerous items immediately. Taking contraband out of the system is important for immediate safety.
  3. Investment in the future – Think about how a small enterprise can grow. It is like pulling small weeds now rather than letting them flourish and overtake the legitimate plants in your garden.
  4. Keeping colleagues safe – We have each others’ back. Safe colleagues mean capable colleagues. Colleagues who recognize threats to security and deal with them increase safety in an upward spiral of success.
  5. Keeping offenders safe – Part of most agencies’ mission statements include the safety of prisoners. We strive to maintain order by removing contraband - the building blocks of illicit power.
  6. Keeping the public safe – The unseen, unthought-of of shield of corrections keeps dangerous elements off the streets. Although the public may not think of our profession often, we are at work all of the time to fulfill our mission.
  7. Drawing the line – When we issue misconduct reports on contraband issues, prisoners see where we draw the line. What we remove from the system indicates our collective intolerance for specific items.

It was reported that when “Notorious” Bouchard was captured in 1892 in Quebec, he inebriated and abusive. His actions may have been inspired by monetary gain, fame, and perhaps the influence of a distilled spirit. The only thing that we have in common is a surname.

Horse thief, bank robber, and moonshiner. If you shake the family tree hard enough, a less-than-reputable figure is likely to tumble out. Whether or not I am related to him, my mission remains the same. My actions to mitigate and eliminate contraband in my corner of corrections ultimately fall under the important category of security for staff, offenders, and the public.

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

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