Pubdate: Thu, 05 Apr 2007
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell, Crime Reporter


Drugs and weapons have been literally walking through the door at 
some GTA correctional facilities -- prompting new rules on what 
inmates can wear in custody.

Correctional officials, long plagued by contraband in jail, have 
instituted a shoe policy to combat a new method of smuggling drugs and weapons.

Over the past few months, prisoners were accused of hiding contraband 
inside the soles of hollowed-out shoes. Authorities have seen so many 
similarities in the handiwork -- and the brand of shoe -- they 
suspect a single source, possibly at one central depot.

They believe the payoff for smuggling contraband into jail is so 
lucrative that some people ponder getting arrested deliberately for 
"minor" things in order to go behind bars for a few days.

It's basic economics: scarcity drives up prices, say the authorities.

"You've got to remember, in jail a regular tobacco cigarette is worth 
$50. So this is big, big dollars for them," said Det. Joe Digiovanni 
of 41 Division. A small quantity of marijuana that would sell for $10 
on the street can go for 10 times higher behind bars.

"It's causing a lot of extra work for everyone," the detective said 
yesterday of the procedures involved when it comes to incarcerating suspects.

Last month, Digiovanni charged a man with possessing marijuana for 
the purpose of trafficking after correctional officials at Toronto 
East Detention Centre intercepted a pair of Nike running shoes. The 
soles had been stuffed with pot.

Two weeks earlier, Toronto police charged another man with drug 
trafficking after he allegedly tried to sneak dope into the jail near 
Eglinton and Warden Aves. inside his carved-out footwear.

Both cases are before the courts.

The shoe phenomenon appears to have first been noticed 2 1/2 years 
ago. According to an Oct. 14, 2004 "security bulletin," a truckload 
of Nike shoes "may have been stolen exclusively for the purpose to 
smuggle contraband into correctional facilities." Paul Downing, 
manager-chief inspector for the Correctional Investigation and 
Security Unit, signed the warning.

The bulletin was issued after staff at the jail discovered two pairs 
of Nike Air running shoes had been tampered with "when the soles of 
the shoes had been slit and then hollowed out to create a compartment 
to conceal contraband. Included was a tube of glue so the sole could 
be returned to it's (sic) original appearance."

Attached to the bulletin was a photograph of the shoes, with the sole 
folded back to expose the cavity. Since catching onto the scheme, 
corrections employees have been hyper-vigilant, particularly when an 
inmate comes in wearing Nike shoes. The hollowed-out versions are 
also believed to have been used to bring small, box-cutter type 
knives into jails and detention centres.

But while "intake" staff conduct thorough searches, "the quality of 
alterations has improved significantly so it's undetectable," said a 
source familiar with the practice.

And there are other issues. For instance, if an inmate enters a 
facility wearing high-end designer shoes, "if you cut (them open) ... 
if they're altered during a search, then the taxpayer is on the 
hook," said the source.

Some institutions have also tightened up rules regarding what inmates 
can wear to court after several incidents where inmates returned with 
contraband sewn into the lining of their clothes.

Law enforcement and court officials say those rule changes are easily 
observed since so many prisoners are now coming to court in 
jail-issued orange jumpsuits and blue running shoes. Previously, 
people accused of crimes facing judges and juries were permitted to 
wear their own clothes since it's widely believed jail-issued clothes 
automatically confers criminal status.

"They're taking away all of their personal property in the jails ... 
including the shoes, so now they get these jail shoes," said a source 
in law enforcement. A spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety 
and Correctional Services refused to comment.

"Inmates are constantly coming out with innovative ways of trying to 
bring contraband into the institutions and yeah, when we come across 
an incident we look at the procedures we've got in place and we make 
changes we think we need to block that from happening again," said 
Stuart McGetrick, adding he was "not going to talk about specific 
changes because that's a security issue."

And while the government has incident reports "on this kind of 
thing," the ministry is unable to provide total numbers either for an 
institution or provincewide, he said.

Meanwhile, another serious safety issue facing corrections officials 
is the practice by inmates of "hooping" small pocket knives in their 
anuses, causing corrections staff in some institutions to resort to 
using metal detectors.

Sometimes, inmates go to hospital to be X-rayed. "It becomes an issue 
of safety," said Digiovanni. Another option used by officials is to 
put those suspected of "hooping" knives in a toilet-free "dry cell," 
where they are watched when they must use the washroom.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman