A panel discussion on CNN tonight dealt with contraband [black market cell phones, etc.] possessed by penitentiary inmates. The panel consisted of people involved with the criminal justice system. I was amazed at the smooth way that they glossed over the problem, saying things like "We must look at the situation and determine what we need to do to solve this issue." We heard exactly similar vague non-statements back in the 1950s.
Contraband has always been a problem in our prisons. Everything from drugs to electronic gear to weapons is available, for a price, in the prison environment. The market for drugs is obvious. Guns can be used to kill guards and fellow inmates. Cellphones can be used to plan and coordinate prison escapes and other illegal activities. There have been cases where a cellphone call from a prisoner instigated a killing on the streets. Inside a prison, contraband can be a real threat.
How does such contraband enter the "secure" confines of a prison? The answer is, it is suprisingly easy to convey contraband items into a prison. Many different people go into, and out of, a prison on a daily basis. There are the guests who go to visit the prisoners. There are the civilian prison staffers and other civilian employees. There are the prison guards, themselves. Various sales and delivery people enter and leave the prison every day. And there are inmates who leave the prison to perform some outside task, and they return to the prison later in the day.
When entering the prison, some of these people are searched for contraband; mainly the work crew inmates and the guests arriving to visit the inmates. Some of these people are not searched when they enter the prison. The persons most likely to come into direct contact with the inmates are the prison guards and the lower-level staffers like medical technical assistants and counselors, and these people are rarely be searched for contraband.
When a person is searched for contraband, he undergoes what is called a "skin search," and being treated this way would make a prison guard or prison staffer quite irate. After all, they are the "good guys," right?
Are we seeing the inkling of a clue? But from criminal justice talking heads, for more than 50 years, we have been hearing "We must look at the situation and determine what we need to do to solve this issue." And the beat goes on ... the beat goes on.