Jail officials combat a new trend of contraband behind bars - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Jail officials combat a new trend of contraband behind bars

By Christie Post - email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Prison administrators across the country are working to get in front of a growing problem with their inmates.

It's an expensive trend, but we're not just talking about drugs making its way in behind bars. Prisoners are now smuggling in cell phones.

"Inmates are manipulators and they will work every angel to get what they want," said Sheriff Kelly Rowe, Lubbock County Detention Center.

New legislation went into effect last year to make it a crime for federal prisoners to possess or use wireless devices.

"In 2008 a condemned murderer on death row in my home state of Texas used a smuggled cell phone to threaten a state senator. That state senator happened to be the chairman of the criminal justice committee in the state senate," said Rep. Ted Poe, (R-TX)

Since then, at least nine inmates on the Texas death row were found with cell phones. It's a way people inside the system to have a lifeline to coordinate outside criminal activity.

"Prison guards are the number one source of getting cell phones in the penitentiary," said Rep. Poe.

Representative Poe said a prison guard in California made $100,000 just in dealing cell phones.

"Unfortunately we've had contract staff, even some of our employees over the course of time that have gone down that road ultimately being manipulated into bringing contraband into the buildings," said Sheriff Rowe.

But here locally at the Lubbock Detention Center Sheriff Rowe said they have not had a big problem with cell phones making their way inside. "It has happened on a rare occasion," said Sheriff Rowe.

Nationwide prison guards have been trying to combat this kind of contraband. But here on the South Plains jailers have been dealing with other illegal activity sneaking in for decades.

"The other officer happened to open up the carmex container and found that there was a couple of rock cocaine inside the container," said Corporal David Flores, Lubbock County Detention Center.

The design of the new 1,512 bed facility has helped to stop the contraband trafficking. "Things are wider, more open. We're not walking on top of ourselves," said Sheriff Rowe.

But that doesn't stop criminals from getting high or making weapons behind bars. "Over the course of time we've seen anything from sprinkling stamps that are used to mail it with various substances. Then the inmate pulls the stamp off and then licks it," said Sheriff Rowe.

Though only some of these are considered illegal on the street, items like smuggled food and kitchen utensils are all illegal behind bars.

"You take in account a facility like ours and many around the nation that have gone smoke-free. You're not going to stop individuals that still want to try to get that cigarette or worse," said Sheriff Rowe.

So what are Lubbock prison guards doing to stop the smuggling?

"From the time he left, to the time he got back he may be patted down five, six times or even more," said Corporal Flores.

And Sheriff Rowe said anyone who has left the facility and reentered because of working or going to court, they are all subject to a strip search when they enter back in the facility.

"We're able to see these inmates 24/7. Wherever they go whatever they do we're keeping an eye on them, multiple officers in the hallways and cameras.

Inmates also have a wrist band where deputies can track where they are 24/7, simply by scanning their wrist. Deputies said this tactic helps tackle the contraband problem.

Copyright 2011 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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