No one who knows anything about prison culture should be surprised about this, as reported by the Washington Post.
Prison inmates, a remarkably ingenious bunch, are disrupting long-standing methods of smuggling drugs, porn and cellphones the same way online retailers hope to one day deliver socks and underwear to American homes — through the air, with drones.
By coordinating with wingmen on the outside for shipments of contraband, inmates can bypass the need to bribe corrupt guards or persuade family members to hide forbidden items in body cavities.
Though nobody is precisely sure just how many drones are landing every day in prisons, the threat is global. Last year, there was a melee at an Ohio prison after a drone dropped heroin into the exercise yard. In April, security cameras at a London prison recorded a drone delivering drugs directly to an inmate’s window.
And in Western Maryland earlier this year, prosecutors convicted a recently released inmate and a prisoner serving a life sentence on charges of attempted drug distribution and delivery of contraband after they completed several nighttime missions netting them $6,000 per drop in product sales. It was such a lucrative scheme that the former inmate had purchased a new truck for himself with the profits.
In many cases, the drones soaring over prison walls are the same $50-to-$500 devices that show up under Christmas trees only to be promptly crashed into trees by their new owners. Flight paths are somewhat more clear in the stark nothingness surrounding many prisons.
“These things can be fun toys if you’re not trying to smuggle contraband into a prison,” said Alleghany County assistant state’s attorney Erich Bean, who prosecuted the Maryland case, calling it “one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever handled.”
Prison officials are dealing with this new threat even as inmates continue using older, higher-risk methods. Earlier this month, more than 50 correctional officers and inmates were charged in a smuggling scheme at Eastern Correctional Institution, Maryland’s largest prison.
Drone deliveries, while clever, aren’t all that surprising given how much time inmates spend watching television news, security officials say. They’ve likely seen stories about retailers such as Amazon (founded by Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos) pushing the concept.