Pubdate: Sun, 18 Jan 2009
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2009 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Randy Ludlow
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Despite Penalties, Scores Are Caught Each Year Trying  To Smuggle Them

The contraband was lobbed over the fence in tennis balls, swapped and
swallowed from a shared cup of coffee, and tucked into gutted TV
converters and hollowed-out books.

Some Ohio prison inmates with a craving for drugs regularly succeed
in recruiting friends and family in hopes of scoring an illicit high
behind the confines of the razor wire.

The methods used to smuggle narcotics into state prisons last year
ranged from the ingenious to the obvious, but at least 115 attempts
met the same fate: They failed.

More than 100 people were apprehended during 2008 while trying to
slip illegal drugs to inmates in Ohio's 32 state prisons, with most,
in turn, earning their own time behind bars.

From inmate mail to in-person swaps in visitation rooms to a few
instances of corrections officers turning dealers, prison officials
long have fought to keep drugs from inmates.

"People are very creative," said Terry Collins, director of the Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "I know we stop some,
but I'm sure there's some we don't."

Despite visitation-room posters displaying the mug shots of those
arrested for drug smuggling, visitors are regularly caught attempting
to pass drugs to inmates amid vigilant guards and video

"Unfortunately, it's way too common," said Prosecutor Michael Ater of
Ross County, where 21 people were caught last year bringing drugs
into the county prison and the Chillicothe prison. The pair led the
state in  smuggling attempts.

"The typical case is a person taking in a balloon (filled with drugs)
and trying to find a way to put it into a bag of chips and then the
inmate takes the bag and swallows the thing," Ater said.

In one unusual case, a prisoner and his visitor were arrested after
they were seen exchanging shoes. The visitor's tennis shoes contained
pot under the sole  liners.

Visitors to state prisons consent to being searched for drugs.
Multiple visitors were arrested last year when tipped-off state
troopers greeted them with search warrants.

Illegal conveyance of drugs in a prison or jail is a third-degree
felony punishable by one to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Inmates on the receiving end face up to six months in isolation and
transfer to a higher-security prison.

Despite the potential punishments, drugs still trickle in. Random
testing last year yielded 355 dirty drug tests among inmates, nearly
1 percent of all those  tested.

North Central Correctional Institution near Marion had the largest
problem, by far, among state prisons with 80 inmates (5.6 percent of
those tested) testing positive for illegal drug use.

The prison received special attention for its drug problem, with a
special investigation leading to the arrest and conviction of a
corrections officer who was sneaking drugs to inmates, Collins said.

On Friday, North Central experienced a smuggling first. A 14-year-old
visiting his stepfather was caught in the visitation room with a
package that contained marijuana. He was taken into custody and
charged with delinquency. The youth's mother, who accompanied him, 
said she knew nothing about the smuggling.

Two guards were charged last year with smuggling drugs into prisons
near Lebanon and Toledo.

Records also show cases in which indirect drug transfers were
attempted, with drugs hidden for later retrieval.

In one case, a one-legged inmate taken to a Columbus-area prosthesis
center was found with marijuana in the tennis shoe on his fake foot
upon his return to prison. The drugs had been planted in a restroom
at the center.

Outside couriers also have pitched tennis balls and empty
deodorant-stick containers over prison fences in an attempt to convey
drugs and cell phones into prisons.

Inmates' boxes and letters from home sometimes contain more than
greeting cards, letters and pictures. Last year a box containing
Bibles and two other books was shipped to a chaplain's office, with
the books hollowed out and stuffed with marijuana. Two TV 
digital-converter boxes were found with their innards replaced with

And liquid methadone was found brushed on a construction-paper
greeting that was crafted to look like it was from a child.

Early last year, inmates toiling at the prison farm outside the
secured perimeter of the Allen Correctional Institution near Lima had
an ambitious would-be benefactor.

Fourteen packages of marijuana once were found hidden throughout a
barn and, on another day, authorities were tipped to a couple of
hollowed-out two-by-fours in which drugs had been inserted.

Lying in wait thanks to a tip, troopers caught a man leaving a
package under a trailer on the farm on Feb. 28. An ex-convict, Walter
Call, was sent to prison for four years for leaving a care package
that included 13 cell phones, hundreds of doses of narcotics and 
methamphetamine, and 12 ounces of marijuana.
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