Weapons, drugs, phones: Contraband flows into jails despite technology

Weapons, drugs, phones: Contraband flows into jails despite technology

Keeping drugs and other contraband out of local jails is a struggle despite having the latest technology, according to officials who run the two Butler County facilities.

Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer wasn’t shocked to learn of an inmate at the Middletown City Jail who suffered an apparent overdose after heroin was found stashed in his buttocks.

“It is constant battle,” said Dwyer. “Running a jail is difficult.”

In March, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office installed a body scanner at the jail to help detect any type of contraband smuggled in via body cavities.

A sample body scan provided by Nuctech. BUTLER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE Submitted

The scanners are most helpful as a deterrent, he said.

“People know we have it,” Dwyer said. “The inmates know they are going to go through it when they get in here and, unfortunately, 80 percent of people coming through that door have been here before and they know.”

That means more people are “dumping stuff,” Dwyer said, both in cruisers and outside the facility, before stepping into the booking area of the Hanover Street jail.

Drugs and other contraband, including cell phones, cigarettes and even homemade weapons are discovered regularly, Dwyer said.

Drug addiction is driving more attempts to smuggle in items, he said.

“Addiction makes people desperate. You know what people will do to get it (when they aren’t in jail). Can you imagine what they will do to keep it when they come to jail? We’ve seen it all,” Dwyer said.

Recently, a female inmate smuggled into the facility, through her private parts, a “kit” that included a syringe and drugs, he said.

Butler County Sheriff’s Office corrections officer James Turco is one of the jail staff trained to operate the Nuctech body scanning system that is in use at the jail. The Butler County Sheriff’s Office has been using the full body scanner to check inmates for contraband and to increase safety in the jail. The scanner is used in addition to traditional searches. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF Staff Writer

“We do a whole lot of talking here, telling people it is in their best interest to keep them safe to tell us what they have,” Dwyer said.

Searches of cells are conducted regularly and recently every cell in the facility was “tossed” in one night, he said.

Middletown Police Lt. Leanne Hood said the department is always looking for new ways to keep inmates safe and to stop contraband from coming into the city jail.

The city’s police department is currently looking for grants to purchase a body scanner similar to the one used at the county jail, she said.

Both Hood and Dwyer pointed out cavity searches are rare in the jails, because the require a search warrant to conduct.

“Why don’t we just give everybody a body cavity search when they come in? Because it is illegal,” Dwyer said.

The Butler County Sheriff's Office has been using a full body scanner for inmates to check for contraband and increase safety in the jail. The scanner is used in addition to traditional searches. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF Nick Graham

According to Ohio law, “unless there is a legitimate medical reason or medical emergency justifying a warrant-less search, a body cavity search shall be conducted only after a search warrant is issued that authorizes the search. In any case, a body cavity search shall be conducted under sanitary conditions and only by a physician, or registered nurse or licensed practical nurse who is registered or licensed to practice in the state.”

Hood said officers must have probable cause for a warrant to do a body cavity search. Officers, she said, cannot conduct such a search just because someone is arrested on a drug charge.

“It is not something we do often,” she said.

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