5 Ways to Reduce Contraband Through Better Technology

As long as there have been jails, there have been people smuggling prohibited items to inmates.

It’s an age-old, ongoing battle for COs and administrators. But what many may not realize is that by using better and more up-to-date technology, contraband opportunities can be greatly prevented.

Thinking of the main types of contraband—illicit drugs, weapons, cell phones, etc.—they all require a physical link or contact between inmate inside and smuggler outside. Incoming mail, for example, can be soaked with liquid drugs. Household supplies brought in by friends or family might contain hollowed out soap bars with concealed narcotics, or a dangerous but common tactic: razor blades hidden in toilet paper rolls.

Sever the physical link, and you sever the contraband pipeline. That’s where technology comes in.

Launching new pro-technology policies can not only enable efficiencies for inmate management, but also create foolproof roadblocks to contraband schemes.

  1. Implementing video calling, for example, replaces face-to-face visits (and the various security risks) and yet still allows real-time personal visits between offenders and friends or family.
  2. Outsourcing your jail commissary to a reputable third party provider can eliminate contraband security risks that exist with an in-house commissary. You receive your items from a protected off-site warehouse where every package leaving the facility is quality checked. Plus, goods are delivered to your jail in clear bags so it’s easy to spot anything  in the delivery that isn’t supposed to be there.
  3. Offering and promoting online gift commissary eliminates the possibility of contraband being hidden in normal care packages. Ordering is done via e-commerce, like Amazon, through your commissary’s website. The ordering party has no contact with the items purchased, which are drop-delivered directly to the inmate.
  4. An e-card and/or email program can encourage outside parties to send electronic greeting cards, photo images and other communications to inmates, rather than paper versions through the mail. That saves them postage, and also reduces mail inspection costs, and renders contraband inclusion impossible.
  5. Body scanners can quickly detect contraband that would otherwise require thorough, invasive and time-consuming strip searches. Scan/search protocols should also include inmate searches following any personal visits.

As in every industry, correctional technology investments save more than they cost, and also streamline processes and systems for efficiency, accuracy and productivity. Each of the contraband-prevention technologies mentioned here also adds vast improvements to jail operations, and there are a number of reputable suppliers with experience and case study information documenting their value.