US

Drones Fly Drugs And Porn Into Jail

Inmates increasingly use drones to smuggle anything from cell phones to weapons into jails across the country, according to Department of Justice (DOJ) documents released in mid-June.

The documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, reveal more than a dozen attempts to transport mobile phones, drugs, and porn into federal prisons over the past five years, according to USA Today.

Experts say current anti-drone technologies fail to protect jails against drones transporting dangerous items, including firearms. Smuggling contraband into prison through any method is illegal, but no law currently bars drones from flying near correctional facilities.

“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,” Troy Rule, a drone legislation advocate and Arizona State University law professor, told USA Today.

According to the Justice Department report, an inmate at the high-security federal prison in Victorville, Calif., smuggled two cell phones in March 2015 via drone, and jail officials didn’t discover the drone drop for five months.

In 2014, a drone crashed while attempting to deliver marijuana to a prison in South Carolina, and a drone-delivered drug package sparked a fight in an Ohio facility in 2015, according to The Verge. An inmate and two accomplices were convicted of smuggling drugs and porn into Maryland’s Western Correctional Institution via drone in 2016. There is a pattern of the cases over years, and 2017 is seeing increasing drone drops.

Jail management consultant Donald Leach says smugglers could be discouraged by introducing anti-drone jammers. The jammers disable the signals on drones and block their entry by hacking into the operating system. Leach, who worked as a jail administrator for 25 years, said drones pose a greater threat than any other methods of smuggling illegal goods.

“Traditionally some inmates would bribe the staff or visitors to bring drugs and other small items into jail illegally by hiding them in body cavities … but drones have opened up the possibility of transporting much bigger and much more lethal items like guns into the facilities,” Leach said.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has requested technology that could be used to stop drones near facilities. A pending Senate bill called the Drone Federalism Act would also encourage local legislation if passed.

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