Harrison County Jail staff works hard to stop contraband

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Contraband is a huge problem in jails across the country. The Mississippi Department of Corrections is working to crack down on contraband. Recently, the department arrested four people for attempting to smuggle tobacco, spice and pills into jails.

Harrison County Jail Warden Major David Sanderson said the way the jail is built and the procedures his staff follows make it a challenge for inmates to get contraband into the jail, but he admits it does happen.

"I figure about once a month, it gets in normally through detainees from off the street that are arrested and brought into our booking department," Sanderson said. "They come in through the booking process. They are thoroughly searched. Somehow though, the contraband does still get into the facility."

The jail is built more like a maximum security prison, inmates are housed in separate cells. Also family and friends are rarely allowed to make contact with inmates, almost all visits are through glass with a phone. However, the warden said occasionally visitors do sneak in banned items.

"I've actually heard conversations where an inmate has told their relatives or friend to make sure they place it in the bathroom up in the lobby, or place it out on the grounds for the lawn crew, which is inmate workers. And the inmate workers pick it up when they are dumping out the trash or mowing the lawn," Sanderson said.

Inmate workers are searched before they come back into the facility, but sometimes things slip through.

Sanderson said tobacco, prescription pills, marijuana and spice are the most common things smuggled in. Once it is in the jail, he said, it is dispersed and used quickly.

"An inmate worker in booking possibly finds the contraband, picks it up and passes it to the inmate worker in B hallway, then passes it to the inmate worker in A hallway," Sanderson said.

But his staff meets on a weekly basis to try and stay a step ahead of the contraband problem.

Smuggling contraband into a correctional facility is a felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison. Inmates found with contraband are also pushed usually inside the prison system.

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