How Are Things Snuck Into Prisons?

By Natalie

Updated: October 1, 2019

Drugs is just one of the many things being snuck into prisons each and every day. Everytime I get into a discussion with someone about the drug war, I always try to explain how impossible it is to keep drugs off the streets. It is the number one item that continues to creep into my mind, as far as contraband getting into the prison goes. When people need or want something, they will go to extreme lengths to get itㄧno matter where they are. 

The drug war might seem like a weird topic to bring up, but the issue goes hand in hand with the problem of prison contraband. On that note, let’s talk about today’s topicㄧhow are things snuck into prison?

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • How inmates and guards smuggle in contraband
  • Getting creative during a visit and with the mail
  • Vendors and other prison workers are vulnerable
  • Other documented ways people have snuck items into prison

How inmates and guards smuggle in contraband

From my experience, the most common way contraband (illegal items) is snuck into prisons is via the prison guards. Prison inmates have their own economy. No, they don’t have cash, but they use postage stamps and ramen noodle soups (for example) as currency, and there is a demand for everything, from cell phones to drugs.

As an inmate, if you can find a way to bring big time contraband items into a prison, it can make you a lot of money. The same can be said for the guards, and this is why both inmates and guards will take the risk of breaking the law to sneak things into prisonㄧthere is a lot of money to be made. 

Of course, not every guard gets involved willingly. Some inmates can be quite manipulative, and young, inexperienced guards can be blackmailed into it, especially if they make the decision of becoming sexual with an inmate. Every year, there are prison workers who are prosecuted for misconduct. 

That being said, most guards involved with smuggling contraband do it because they want to make an easy buck, and it can be extremely lucrative. Guards are the most reliable way to bring in items because they have direct contact with the inmates on a daily basis, and the security checks they go through are usually pretty lax.

Another way to get items into prison is through the inmates themselves. If they know they are going to be sentenced to prison, some inmates will conceal drugs, tobacco, or electronics inside their bodies (Yes, in those places you’re thinking right now) before they go to court or before they turn themselves in.

They will put together packages with cling-wrap or put them inside condoms. But, since you have to go through a strip search when you enter prison, you have to be prepared to hold those items in very uncomfortable places for a long time. You also have to know how to squat and cough without the contraband exiting your body at the wrong time. 

Inmates also accomplish sneaking contraband when they are on work release. They can have a friend drop off a package at the site they are working at, and quickly put those things away to take into the prison. There are many different ways of sneaking contraband, and inmates have discovered them!

Getting creative during a visit and with the mail

The visiting room is another popular way to bring contraband into a prison. There is limited contact between inmates and visitors, but if you know what you are doing, you can transfer things quickly during a hug or kiss

The most common way to pass contraband during a visit is through the bathroom, but this takes connections and planning. If the inmates and visitors share a bathroom, that makes the transfer much easier. It’s pretty rare for inmates to be able to use the same bathroom as the visitors, and you also get strip searched after a visit.

They have the inmates who work in the visiting room be the person to transfer in the contraband. There isn’t usually a guard present when bathrooms are being cleaned, so the visiting room worker can find the hidden items and put them where they need to put them before they finish work and head back to the dorms. 

Sometimes, the visiting room officer is in on it, and they will get a cut of the action.

As for the mailㄧthis is something I’ve learned while in prisonㄧdrugs can be sent through the mail by lacing greeting cards and stamps. Because of this, prisons are starting to crack down on what kind of mail you can send to an inmate. Where I was incarcerated, the mailroom staff started tearing off the corners of the envelopes with the stamps before handing out inmate mail to avoid the problem completely. 

Vendors and other prison workers are vulnerable

As Orange Is The New Black taught us, vendorsㄧespecially the people who supply the foodㄧare very vulnerable to the contraband smuggling game because their trucks and employees are always going in and out of the prison gate.

Every time they enter and exit the prison grounds, those vehicles get searched. Still, they find ways to smuggle in contraband at some prisons. Because of the frequency of visits and the size of the trucks, this can lead to huge profits.

To pull this off, it would be almost impossible for an inmate to run the operation. This would be something that a guard or other prison worker would need to be in charge of because inmates don’t have that kind of freedom to move things around and keep things away from the cameras and away from guards who aren’t in on it.

Other documented ways people have snuck items into prison

Because the prison workers at most facilities are VERY aware of all the ways to smuggle in contraband that I previously mentioned, there have been a lot of rule changes in recent years. Of course, people just get more and more creative.

Some people have smuggled in contraband inside their weave, while others have had friends or family members literally throw things over the fence or drop it with a drone in a specific place for the inmate to pick up later.

Sending in drugs via coloring books is also possible, and you can also use a Bible to smuggle contraband because for some reason, the guards don’t search that book very often.

Are you surprised that people go to such great lengths to sneak things into prison? Let us know in the comments below.


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