Drones: A serious threat to prison security

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. HMP-Featherstone-near-Wolverhampton

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. drone1 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.

Colbey Santos and Gary Pope are not only coaches, they are role models

As time expired, the Bishop Stang boys’ basketball team quickly realized what they had accomplished in becoming state champions with their impressive 80-64 victory over Oxford at the MassMutual Center.  What you may not know is that two DOC staffers coached the team and mentored the young men both on and off the court.

Recreation Officer Colbey Santos and Correction Officer Gary Pope were both standout athletes in their own right.  They teamed up this past year to coach the Bishop Stang boys’ basketball team and their immediate success was impressive.  Colbey works at MCI Cedar Junction and is in the early stages of his career, while Gary currently works at the Central Transportation Unit and has had a long and successful career.  They are both very respected members of “Team DOC.”

Head coach Colbey Santos, “this year was very exciting to be able to do something that has never been done at Stang and that’s winning a state title.  Academically we are one of the toughest schools in Massachusetts and that’s why I wanted to coach here.  All year long we would hear, in the next few years Bishop Stang will be good, they’re just young.  Our coaching staff was able to take a group of freshman and sophomores and bring home a trophy!  I’m very proud of this group.  Academically, emotionally and physically, these boys persevered.”

To be a second year coach and lead a team to a state championship is quite an impressive feat.  Kudos to Colbey and Gary.  Thank you for representing the Massachusetts Department of Correction in your community.  You make us all very proud.

Attleboro Police and DOC Investigators partner to thwart prison drug smuggling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE by Attleboro Police Department
On Tuesday March 22, 2016, investigators from the Attleboro Police Department and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections concluded an investigation into drug activity with ties to the illegal smuggling of narcotics into state correctional facilities.
Detectives from the Attleboro Police Department and investigators from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections Office of Investigative Services partnered in an investigation which stemmed from information received from the prisons. The investigators learned that a female suspect was coming to Attleboro to pick up a package containing illegal drugs. Investigators also learned that she was going to be taking possession of those drugs in order to smuggle them into one of the state’s correctional facilities.
Investigators were granted a search warrant for the suspect’s vehicle. The vehicle was located and subsequently stopped in the parking lot of the Stop and Shop Supermarket located on Pleasant St. in Attleboro.
A search of the vehicle was conducted, and located within an ice cream container were 20 sublingual suboxone strips, packaged and prepared for delivery and introduction into a correctional facility. Also found were 6 individual packages of suspected marijuana, which was packaged in a manner consistent with being prepared to smuggle into a correctional facility.
Arrested was Jazzmine Sanchez, 26, of the Roslindale section of Boston. She is being charged by the Attleboro Police Department with possession with intent to distribute a Class B substance (suboxone), possession with intent to distribute a Class D substance (marijuana), conspiracy to violate the drug laws, and conspiracy to introduce drugs to a correctional facility.
This investigation was a cooperative effort between investigators from the Attleboro Police Department Detective Division and the Massachusetts Department of C0rrections Office of Investigative Services to interdict narcotics on the street before they were introduced to a state prison, where they would be distributed for profit by inmate accomplices. The approximate value of the suboxone strips in prison is $2000.

I Found a Credit Card Skimmer, How I Found It

by Chris Fallon

This past Saturday evening, my wife and I along with some friends were heading to the Rhode Island Convention Center to attend the Camping and RV show.  We parked at the Providence Place Mall and walked across the skybridge that connects the mall to the Omni Providence Hotel and eventually leads to the Convention Center.  When we reached the Omni Hotel directly across the skybridge, I spotted an ATM machine and decided to grab some cash.  This particular ATM machine was the type that you insert the narrow end of your card into and then withdraw it quickly.  The ATM machine instructed me to enter my pin.  I made the transaction like I normally would and it dispensed the cash.

I noticed that something just didn’t feel right about the whole thing.  I know that most of us have seen the items on the news that reports about credit and debit card skimmers, but they never fully describe what to look for, so I’m about to tell you what I felt.

We’ve all likely used the type of ATM machine that I used at a mall or a gas station or a restaurant.  There was absolutely nothing special about it.  This time was different though.  As I slid my debit card into the machine, it felt like there was less of my card to grip between my finger and thumb.  I know that might sound a bit strange, but if you’ve used an ATM machine enough, you should know what I mean.  It felt like I had to slide the card in an extra 1/4 inch or so.  Once the transaction was complete, I thought, let me just check.  I pulled on the bottom of the plastic where my card slides in and it moved just a bit and actually pinched the tip of the ring finger on my right hand.  At that point, I pulled really hard on the plastic card guide and it came off the front of the machine and into my hand.  My wife asked “what the hell are you doing?”  I said look and pointed to an exact replica of what was in my hand, it was still on the front of the ATM machine.  skimmer front

I could not believe what I was seeing and inspected the piece that was in my hand.  It appeared as though the tiny electronic components and the two crude batteries had been soldered in by hand.  There was a small blue LED and a microSD memory card, sort of like the type that is in your cellular telephone.  To be honest, it almost seemed surreal, because you never expect to actually have this happen to you and better yet have your suspicion confirmed.  I guess having been a Corrections Officer for so many years made me a bit more suspicious.  I was able to remove the microSD memory card and I broke it into a few pieces, because I figured it had my information and the information of countless others on it.  I brought the device to the lobby and the people at the desk called hotel security.  The security officer took the device and I handed her a few of the memory card pieces.  I only handed her a few, because as I stated, I’m suspicious, and now everyone is a suspect (not really, but you never know).skimmer back

In any case, what I’d like to leave you with are these thoughts.  The ATM did not look out of the ordinary.  If something doesn’t feel right to you, take an extra moment to investigate it a bit further.  The device was on the machine really tightly, I assume it had some type of light adhesive.  There were cameras everywhere, but that didn’t seem to be a deterrent.

I am posting the actual photos that I took with my phone camera that evening so you can see what I saw.  The good news is that I had no suspicious activity on my card, because it seemed to store the information on the microSD memory card.  I’m not sure if they all work like that, but I figured that I would share my experience.

Parents Beware: The Suicide Seed

As if parents don’t have enough to worry about today, a new disturbing trend may be happening in the U.S.  It comes to us from Southeast Asia and it’s called the Pong Pong seed.  Young adults are taking these seeds in order to end their lives.  pong pong seed

The seeds contain a substance called Cerberin.  It is extremely toxic in even low dosages, often killing its victims within a few hours, symptoms may include crippling stomach pain, diarrhea, irregular heart rhythm, vomiting and a splitting headache.  Once enough of the toxin accumulates in your system, the Cerberin will succeed in completely inhibiting the cellular sodium/potassium pump enzyme and disrupt the heart’s electrical system, ultimately stopping it.

One seed contains enough toxin to kill an adult.  Recently in Chicago a trans-gendered 22 year old woman ended her life by ingesting a single seed that she purchased on the internet from Thailand for $1.  The cost to ship it to the U.S was $4.  So for $5, a young life was ended.

Please take the time to inspect what’s being shipped to your home.  This seed is nothing to be underestimated.  It is absolutely lethal.

Critical Incident Stress Management Training

By Thomas Borden

On February 2nd, 2016, I, along with 30 staff members from all disciplines across the Department of Correction participated in the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation’s training titled Group and Individual Crisis Intervention.  This three-day training taught us how to provide peer support following a critical incident.  Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is a peer-driven, clinically supported model that is utilized to get Public Safety personnel the help they need to overcome the trauma they’ve experienced.  CISM provides staff an opportunity to talk about their incident with a peer staff member in a confidential setting; should further intervention become necessary, the peer can make an appropriate referral.  incident

CISM teams have been operating for two decades among Police, Fire, and EMS departments across the Commonwealth. They can be activated at any time to respond to a traumatic event.  These events often include line of duty death, suicide of a colleague, staff assault, prolonged failed rescue, mass casualty incident, major disorders, and administrative betrayal.  The Department of Correction currently utilizes the Employee Assistance Services Unit (EASU) to respond to critical incidents.

Upon completion of the course, we are certified in Group Crisis Intervention and Assisting Individuals in Crisis.  Although the Department will continue to utilize team members from the EASU to respond to critical incidents, we came away from this training with a better understanding of stress management.   This course supplied me with a base understanding of one of the most essential functions of the EASU and furnished me with skills that will allow me to provide support and assistance to a co-worker should the need arise.Walpole Prison

I would like to thank the EASU for sponsoring this training and Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union (MCOFU) for providing funding.  I would recommend this course to every staff member next time it is available.