Inmates Use Drones to Smuggle Phones, Drugs, Porn

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While large companies like Amazon test drone delivery systems, inmates already are using the devices to receive their own aerial shipments: smuggled contraband, USA Today reports. Documents obtained from the Justice Department through a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered more than a dozen attempts to transport contraband — including mobile phones, drugs and porn — into federal prisons in the past five years. State facilities reported similar incidents. Experts say current anti-drone technologies fail to protect prisons against the unmanned aerial devices that transport dangerous items, including firearms, which are almost impossible to sneak in via traditional smuggling methods. “Civilian drones are becoming more inexpensive, easy to operate and powerful. A growing number of criminals seem to be recognizing their potential value as tools for bad deeds,” said law Prof. Troy Rule of Arizona State University.

While smuggling contraband into prison through any method violates federal law, no statute bars drones from flying near correctional facilities. An inmate at the high-security federal prison in Victorville, Ca., recruited someone to use a drone to smuggle in two cell phones in 2015. Officials didn’t discover the transfer of illegal goods for five months. Similar incidents occurred at federal prisons in Atwater, Ca., Oakdale, La., and Seagoville, Tx. Last year, a recently released inmate and two accomplices were convicted of smuggling drugs and porn into Maryland’s Western Correctional Institution via drone. “The threat posed by drones to introduce contraband into prison and for other means is increasing,” said federal prisons spokesman Justin Long. Management consultant Donald Leach says smugglers could be discouraged by introducing anti-drone jammers, which disable the signals on the flying objects, and a digital protective shield, which blocks the entry of drones into the facilities by hacking into its operating system.

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