As the proliferation of illegal drugs continues to climb in the commonwealth, county jails are seeing an increasing number of arrestees showing up with contraband either on their person or inside their bodies.
While many things such as tobacco, weapons and cellular phones are considered contraband, the most common type of contraband found at the Warren County Regional Jail falls into the category of illegal drugs, Warren County Jailer Stephen Harmon said.
When a person is arrested and brought to the jail, law enforcement officers have already conducted a pat down to check for anything dangerous that creates an officer safety hazard. But once that person arrives at the jail, deputy jailers meticulously comb through their belongings, and if the person is being charged on any type of drug offense or has a history of drug offenses, a deputy jailer will conduct a strip search of the arrestee, he said.
“Contraband in jails can be extremely dangerous for staff or other inmates. Anyone that works in corrections knows that it’s a daily fight, minute-by-minute keeping contraband under control within a detention facility, not only drugs and weapons but also phones and weapons, other unknown items that come in on inmates as they are brought in by law enforcement is something that’s extremely dangerous to my staff and also other inmates, and also narcotics are dangerous to other inmates when they are brought in,” Harmon said.
Deputies have found drugs in the seams of clothing, book bindings, tucked away into handmade compartments within the soles of shoes, hair scrunchies and under skin folds on some of the heavier arrestees.
They have also found paraphernalia such as hypodermic needles and cellular phones in addition to phone chargers hidden in body cavities.
The fight against contraband is never ending and is vital to the overall safety of the inmates and the jail staff. Once inside the facility, drug contraband can lead to overdose, assaults as inmates fight for control of the contraband and it can used as currency between inmates.
“Anyone that would run a detention facility that would tell you they don’t have contraband, would be a liar and this is something we work on everyday in corrections,” Harmon said. “Contraband here has increased in the last year. It’s something that we take very seriously.”
Once contraband is found it is confiscated and the arrestee is charged with promoting contraband which can be a felony or misdemeanor depending on the type of contraband found, Harmon said.