Here We Go Again: Drone Smuggles Package into Detroit Prison

Drones are being used as smuggling tools. Recently, one is expected to have delivered cellphones to inmates in a Detroit prison.

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Drones have become quite the popular tool for smuggling contraband into prison. Having reviewed video footage of such a drone-based delivery, which took place in May, officials have now confirmed it to be the first time a drone successfully delivered contraband to Michigan inmates.

Correctional facilities all over the U.S. have had to face this issue recently, with an alarming number of drones flying over Georgia State Prisons this year, and items such as drugs and phones being illegally delivered to inmates. The problem is largely based on not having enough correctional officers to maintain the integrity of a facility's perimeter, as well as being unable to do anything about the unmanned aerial vehicle if it actually is spotted. 

While various remedies are being considered, including anti-drone guns for employees and implementing signal-jamming geofences, the smuggling continues. 

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz confirmed on Friday that the surveillance footage definitively proves that inmates at Ionia’s Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility successfully retrieved two packages delivered by drone, a confirmation that's the first of its kind for Michigan, according to The Detroit News

Officials suspect these payloads to have contained Alcatel cellphones, which were later discovered inside the facility, and is a brand of phone often used as a "burner" phone, which easily circumnavigates detailed registration or the need for personal information. This type of phone has previously been involved in attempted drone deliveries to prisons in Carson City and other Ionia prisons in August, according to Detective Sgt. Christian Clute

“We don’t even know what was in the packages, to be honest,” said Clute, according to The Detroit News. It’s an ongoing investigation, and the names of the inmates found with the phones haven't been released. However, three inmates are facing felony smuggling charges in connection with the August Ionia drone incident, severely increasing their potential time in prison. 

Why did state officials, who “don’t discuss all introductions of contraband” disclose this most recent incident? “That was the first time the department has ever seen contraband come in, find it before prisoners got to it and effectuate an arrest immediately after,” Gautz said.

As we stated in our most recent drone-related prison story, this is a clear, ongoing issue that correctional facilities need to address sooner rather than later. Regardless of the unfortunate realities of prison life, the employees working there need to be as sure as possible that inmates are unarmed.