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Checking for Tunnels
By William Sturgeon
Published: 08/03/2015

Tunnell This article was originally published on Corrections.com March 2012

Update July 2015: As you can see, I originally wrote this article “Checking for Tunnels” in 2012. Back then some of my colleagues thought that the article was interesting, but not all that relevant to modern day corrections with all of its high tech equipment, checks, and balances.

Well, I guess “Tunneling Out Of Prisons” is more fashionable than some of my colleagues thought. There have been two major escapes from two different “Maximum Security Prisons”- Dannemora (New York State DOC) and the Altiplano (Mexican) prison so far this summer.

So once again, I caution all of my correctional colleagues to search for tunnels. As part of this search, insure that it extends beyond the facility’s external perimeter. Manhole covers should be tack welded down.

I was amazed at the Dannemora escape when I realized that the pipe-chases were not part of regular security inspections. Anyone who has worked in an older facility knows that pipe-chases are a security concern and should be regularly checked by security and maintenance personnel.

When was the last time you checked for tunnels leading to and from your facility? This may appear to be an extreme question to people in many industrialized nations, and it may well be. Yet, if I were still involved in the day-to-day security operations of a correctional facility, I would certainly be conducting security checks for tunnels, and here is why.

Throughout the world, from the Middle East to the Mexican Border, tunnels have become a method of moving contraband and people. Today’s tunnels span the gamut from crude and dangerous to highly sophisticated. Some tunnels have airflow systems, electricity, and they are large enough to operate a small motorized vehicle. Does any of the above sound familiar?

It is a safe bet that in certain areas within the United States and throughout the world there are offenders who have experience in constructing tunnels. However, there is a lack of understanding and experience in uncovering tunnels, I believe, among correctional personnel in many industrialized nations, to include the United States. There are experts available to teach correctional personnel how to search for tunnels. These experts can be found in the U.S. military and in the United States Border Patrol. The U.S. Border Patrol has uncovered tunnels for many years and has been exposed to every type of tunnel imaginable.

Those of us in the field of criminal justice have to continue to keep adapting our tactics to the changing world around us. It is my belief that methods and techniques that are used in the Middle East, Europe, China, Africa, etc., by terrorists and criminals will eventually be used in the United States.

Mt. Sturgeon is a decorated Vietnam veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division.

Visit the Bill Sturgeon page

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