UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WUSA9) -- Inmates at the Western Virginia Regional Jail can no longer receive personal photos because officials say they are using them to sneak in suboxone, a drug intended to treat heroin addiction – but can abused.
Superintendent Bobby Russell told Roanoke.com officers found pictures soaked in liquid suboxone.
Jails and prisons across the country, have seen inmates try and sneak suboxone inside.
The Bureau of Prisons, which operates 122 prisons nationwide and contracts with 13 privately managed facilities, has seen it at their facilities and a spokesperson told WUSA9 they’re currently evaluating “new contraband interdiction technology” to screen for it.
In Prince George’s County, correction officials say they’ve dealt with the same issue, and every day they fight to keep contraband out of their detention center.
K9’s help check each piece of mail sent to the Prince George’s County Jail, but sometimes it’s not enough.
An officer showed WUSA9 a letter they found with two orange strips hidden behind a return address sticker.
“They taped it on there,” the officer said, showing the suspected suboxone. “They try to get it in because it’s not detectable by drug dogs.”
Maj. Cedric Gamble, the executive assistant to the director of the Prince George’s Dept. of Corrections, says they’ve seen “a rise in the number of suboxone cases.”
Two months ago, the jail started telling people any mail they wanted to send to the prison needed to come in a white envelope.
“[Suboxone] kind of discolors the paper,” Gamble explained.
“We actually look for any discoloration on the envelopes, any raised seals on anything.”
However, Gamble says, suboxone isn’t the only thing people try to slip behind the guarded walls.
“There are some pretty interesting places where inmates will try to hide contraband.”
Gamble has worked as a corrections officer for 27 years. He’s spent all of them with the Prince George’s Department of Corrections.
There are 19 units in this department’s detention center. One block houses more than 50 people. Right now, in the entire facility, there are 948 inmates – a figure that includes men, women, maximum-security inmates, minimum-security inmates, and some juveniles.
“In Prince George’s County, we are the only detention center,” explained Yolonda Evans, a spokesperson for the department. “Anyone arrested will end up here.”
Any person charged with a crime, as an adult, will wait for their trail at the jail in Upper Marlboro. It’s typically where anyone sentenced to less than 18 months will serve his or her time.
The fight against contraband, unsurprisingly, doesn’t begin or end with the mail.
It starts with the Body Orifice Search Scanner or the “BOSS Chair,” a device that alerts officers to any hidden pieces of metal on a detainee’s body.
“What I do is have you put your chin up here, cheek and cheek, if there’s something in your mouth then this is where it’s going to pick it up,” an officer said.
The officer, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said some detainees hide razor blades in their mouth, and they’re so skilled at hiding them, they could easily slip through without the BOSS Chair.
Once an individual is inside, even the most mundane thing is viewed at as a threat.
“Contraband basically is anything that’s not been issued by the department, or anything that has been issued by the department but changed or altered in a way to be used in a different manner,” explained Gamble.
The jail takes steps to prevent it.
They issue inmates toothbrushes, but they’re short and made of pliable plastic, which, according to Evans, will disintegrate if an inmate tries to sharpen in.
Both Evans and Gamble say the detention center does not have a major problem when it comes to contraband – but that doesn’t mean they stop looking for it.
Every day, officers visit a different block to search jail cells and the common areas. They’re all unannounced, but on average each block gets, at least, one “shakedown” every two weeks.
Visitors are also subjected to strict rules. Inmates are allowed two 30 minute visits per day.
If you go to see someone at the county jail, you go through a checkpoint, any bags have to be clear, and there’s no direct contact with the inmates.
Even with all of that, officials tell WUSA9 they’re still looking ahead.
Last year, officials at a jail in Allegany County, said they caught two-people using a drone to try and smuggle in drugs and pornography.
“We’re always vigilante,” said Gamble. “As trends change we have to change with them. So if it’s anything like a drone we may have to be creative and have some type of outside post.”