As if prison officials don’t have enough security threats to contend with, now drones have become sophisticated and inexpensive enough to be used to smuggle contraband into prisons.
What types of contraband can be smuggled via drones? Well, at HMP Featherstone Prison near Wolverhampton, England a drone was intercepted trying to transport a set of bolt cutters over the wall. Luckily the drone crashed and dropped the cutters just outside the perimeter and was discovered by an officer. Last July at the Mansfield Correctional Facility in Ohio, a drone traversed over the wall and dropped a package containing drugs and tobacco into the north recreation yard, which was filled with inmates. Multiple inmates attempted to retrieve the package sparking a brawl which had to be quelled by officers who deployed pepper spray. Every inmate leaving the recreation yard had to be strip searched in order to ensure that the contraband items were fully recovered.
In either of those instances, a gun could just have easily been dropped over the wall by a drone. The security risk posed by a firearm in the possession of inmates in a secure facility would surely have catastrophic potential, not only for the risk to staff, but inmates as well. This has been identified as such a significant potential threat that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has put out this RFI for Protection from Unmanned Air Vehicles. Here is a brief synopsis of their request for information, “The Federal Bureau of Prisons (Bureau), Office of Security Technology has created a Request for Information (RFI) to seek information related to a solution regarding protection from unmanned air vehicles. The goal of this RFI is to obtain detailed to collect information to identify and assess the landscape of technologies and systems that can assist in the Bureau’s mission by countering, mitigating and/or interdicting the impact and possible nefarious intent of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).”
As drone technology and capabilities are advanced, some inmates may weigh the risk/reward to opt for a drone to deliver contraband to them vs. a friend or family member who would risk the potential of being caught and doing jail time and barred from visiting them again. Let’s face it, programming a drone from as much as a mile away to fly guided by GPS and deliver a package seems a lot less risky to the person attempting to smuggle contraband in to prisons vs. carrying it in themselves.
Technology is a great thing for the general public, but for those of us who are worried about security in prisons, we are always on the look out for how technology can be used to defeat existing security measures in a prison setting.