Would-be smugglers are experimenting with flying drones onto prison property as a delivery method for contraband, reports the New York Times. It is being tried as an alternative to established methods like paying off officers, hiding contraband in incoming laundry and throwing packages disguised as rocks over fences into recreational yards. The authorities have detected at least four attempts at corrections facilities in the U.S. in the past two years. In the same period, there were also at least four reported attempts abroad, in Ireland, Britain, Australia and Canada. In January, guards found a drone with blue and red flashing lights on the ground inside a recreational yard at a prison in Bennettsville, S.C. On that drone were 55 grams of synthetic marijuana and a cellphone charger.
Law enforcement officials have no way of knowing how many attempts have been successful, but one South Carolina prison warden Cecilia Reynolds, said her officers found 17 phones in an inmate's cell. She suspected that the phones come in on drones. “We've got to do something about this — these cellphones are killing us,” she said. Smartphones are desirable to inmates because unlike pay phones, they are not recorded or monitored. The phones allow them to watch pornography and communicate with fellow prisoners. The phones are essential for coordinating with smugglers using drones, because the prisoners need to know where to find deliveries in the yard. The prisoners can then use the phones to pay their suppliers. In a nine-hour riot at a South Carolina prison, before authorities could regain control, inmates called a television station from their cellphones, claiming they were holding other inmates hostage. The inmates sent the station photos of the hostages and the destruction they had done.