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Alcohol, Botulism, Contraband (ABC)
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 03/23/2015

Contraband One strong indicator of good prison management is the control of contraband. Contraband wreaks havoc on the daily operations and distracts from having a safe and secure environment for both the staff and inmates. Contraband is a natural result of a clever population. When given the time to think, invent or develop, they can come up with various ways to create or produce resources that enables them to make or manufacturer items for personal use or protection such as prison made weapons or knives. This requires a back to basics attitude simplified as the ABC’s of security.

The list of contraband is endless and important to remember when shaking down someone and know the consequences of finding objects that may facilitate such things. Primarily, home brew is made for consumption but gives them the ability to exchange this contraband for other items as it carried the value of money in trades or bartering for other properties or contraband. Instead of creating a black market, correctional officers deal with an underground market inside prisons.

One of the best and quickest way to determine if your contraband plan is intact is the presence of home brew. Homebrew is an ideal real-world indicator of weak contraband searches, control and possession inspections. Unfortunately, the presence of an underground market also illustrates the weaknesses of inmate supervision and management problems. Being too lax or not vigilant of your surrounding creates opportunities for inmates to be creative and harmful to others around you.

Being vigilant means spotting, finding or noticing things or items out of place or hidden. It also means that if you see an inmate or several inmates from the same area of the yard or housing units come to sick call of feeling ill with flue like symptoms and nausea, blurred vision or difficulties breathing, or staggering or with slurred speech, you may have a homebrew problem that could escalate into a fight, disturbance or the rarely thought about consequences, a botulism problem.

Contraband such as hooch, juice, brew or alcohol by any other name is a common find especially around the holidays. Again, it is a symptom of a weak contraband process in place. The smuggling of fruits and other sweets or potatoes from their work areas or storage areas could indicate searches are not being done properly when these inmates return to their housing units.

Although it sounds simple enough, this most important task if often neglected or overlooked. Some officers don’t realize the impacts of botulism as it is rarely explained to them. Botulism can be deadly and is strong toxin. Botulism is a bacteria and if not treated, can cause many illnesses if not controlled. Botulism is caused by a toxin produced by a bacteria commonly found in soil when it is placed in an oxygen-deprived environment – like the hidden or closed containers used for alcohol production. The toxin is produced during the fermentation process if no sufficient heat is applied to kill the bacteria.

Signs that may indicate botulism outbreaks are important and must be reported to medical staff immediately for an urgent follow up. We are talking about nerve related respiratory paralysis that could lead to death. We are talking about double vision, droopy eyelids, dry mouth and general muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing. Medical reports indicated that this “poisoning from botulism toxins through prison hooch can happen in a few hours or take up to 10 days to appear.” This makes it important for the nurse to question the patient and housing officers in a suspicious situation.

Although it may seem harmless, it can be deadly. I have heard some officers say that homebrew is natural and it keeps inmates busy. I have seen drunk inmates assault each other, injury staff and cause property damage that was out of control. Home brew may be harmless to some but in the end, it has the impending possibility to brew up some real trouble for you and others who work with you inside a jail or prison setting.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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