Criminals Using Drones to Deliver Contraband to Inmates in Prison

Yellow Labs are one of the most popular breeds in America, known as great family dogs who are friendly and loyal. But their roots are in fishing and hunting, which is why they are often trained as detection dogs for police forces and other agencies.  Hazel isn’t exactly the hunting type she’s more of a nerd, according to her doggy dad Jay Miller from Mansfield, Ohio. But one fateful morning while Jay’s wife Ashley went out walking near their business, DRM Productions, this lab had a lead on something. She dragged Ashley into the woods and that’s when they found it, a drone wrapped in camouflage tape with its lights covered up.

Since DRM Productions is about a mile down the road from the Mansfield Correctional Institution (MANCI), Ashley was immediately suspicious. Jay and Ashley suspect that people have been using drones to smuggle contraband over prison walls at MANCI for some time now. Jay even admitted that the security cameras at DRM Productions often showed unknown individuals operating drones on their property after business hours. Jay called the local authorities to report the suspicious drone. Authorities found that the drone had no payload contraband. Other incidents, however, have had different endings.

Just last year, a Cleveland man was arrested for operating a drone above the prison. Upon interception, authorities found that a parcel being carried by the drone contained marijuana, cigarettes, and cell phones. And back in 2015, a drone successfully dropped a package in one of MANCI’s yards containing marijuana, tobacco, and heroin allegedly meant for one of the inmates. While the drone made it into the prison yard, it missed its intended target. The drone delivery prompted a fight involving nine inmates and several correctional officers.

The use of drones to interact with prison inmates has become a global problem. In Australia, prison officials were made aware of an individual throwing tennis balls over prison walls containing buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, but most likely meant to be sold amongst inmates. The following weekend, four men, including the one thought to have orchestrated the tennis ball plan, were arrested after attempting to fly a drone into the prison containing large amounts of buprenorphine.

Reports of drug smuggling drones continue to rise. Earlier this September, in Los Angeles, California, a male suspect was arrested for using a stolen identity and a drone to smuggle contraband into the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange County. An inmate found the drone, which authorities believe contained heroin, methamphetamines, Xanax, and muscle relaxers. Authorities believe that the suspect had been conspiring with another female inmate.

Smuggling drugs into prison facilities pose threats on many levels. It increases addiction and violence amongst inmates and staff. If drones can smuggle in weapons, a major catastrophe could ensue. This is why many prison facilities have had to contract additional security firms to establish anti-drone parameters such as geofencing, cameras, and sanctioned defensive drones.

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