The Oklahoma Department of Corrections just made the largest contraband seizure in its history after raiding a warehouse filled with drugs, cell phones and drones.
The Director talked to News On 6 about the ongoing battle to keep smuggled goods out of state prisons.
“Identifying, you know, behavior that is suspicious. It also involves monitoring our telephone systems. Our inmates now use tablet technology, so we actually have the ability to monitor telephone systems and monitor electronic communication. Monitor our mail coming in and going out of the facility. Also, we utilize k9s that are trained in drug detection and also cell phone detection… Conducting forensics on our cell phones that we do discover,” said Scott Crow, Director of ODOC. “Sometimes we are able to gain information or intelligence through those drops that actually leads us or points us in certain directions to be able to identify the people that are responsible for having contraband brought into our facilities.”
The DOC said its most recent raid resulted in the recovery of hundreds of thousands of dollars in contraband and they expect several people to be charged in the case.
It includes 30 pounds of marijuana, 2.2 pounds of meth, 2,400 cannabis pills, cannabis edibles, 35 pounds of tobacco, 31 cell phones, and two drones.
The Office of the Inspector General’s Criminal Interdiction Division recovered all this from a storage unit in NW Oklahoma City earlier this month.
They also found cell phone chargers, lighters, and grappling hooks plus $8,500 in counterfeit cash along with guns and ammo.
“It’s big, big money. If you look at a cell phone, a contraband cell phone that’s brought into a facility depending on supply and demand, a $19 cell phone can range in prison from $700,” said Crow.
It’s become popular for people to drop drugs and phones into prison yards by drone but there are other ways too.
“Contraband drops that occur through drones. There’re contraband drops that occur through deliveries to our facilities. Of course, we have visitation in our facilities and many times we are very attentive to visitors entering our facilities because they plant contraband on their bodies or in devices or things that they bring into our facilities. And in certain instances, we have staff that have been found guilty of bringing contraband into our facilities,” said Crow. “All of our facilities have x-ray technology, metal detectors. We have some handheld devices that are referred to as deep tissue metal detectors in case individuals try to hide contraband in certain locations. We employ devices called cellsense towers that are actually really focused on identifying cell phones which is absolutely one of our biggest sources of contraband because of what it facilitates or allows people to facilitate.”
Crow said keeping contraband out of prisons has long been an issue but has worsened over the last few years.
“Our best efforts on many days are still behind the curve because contraband in prisons not just in Oklahoma but across the United States is big business. It’s organized crime in many respects. A lot of times it’s tied to gang activity,” said Crow. “A lot of times people think of a prison, and they think of an enclosed, fenced in facility with razor wire and all those things. And many of our facilities resemble something similar to a college campus, where they’re open.”
He told us partnerships with other agencies are crucial and tips from the public help, greatly.
“It takes a concentrated effort across a variety of platforms,” said Crow.
DOC also recently confiscated 2,500 fentanyl pills this month which he said are deadly and often linked to overdoses.
“It most likely saved many lives because the number of tablets we received, typically that tablet would actually be cut and maybe actually used to create or produce other drugs,” said Crow.
Crow said punishment often means nothing to those who get caught.
“The problem with that is, is if you’re an individual that’s already serving 50 or 60 years, that’s not much of a deterrent because you realize you’re going to spend most of your life in prison already,” said Crow.
So far this year, DOC said it has confiscated more than 4,000 cell phones in or around prisons.
They said cell phones in prisons have been used to run drug operations on the outside and even direct assaults and murders.
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