Did you check the...? Common contraband hiding places

Inmates are creative when it comes to hiding contraband, so we too must be creative in seeking it out


Over the years prisoners have found some very interesting places to hide contraband in hopes that the officers don’t seek it out.

Watching reruns of the Andy Griffith show as a child, I remember one episode where a town resident brought in baked goods to an incarcerated loved one with a file backed inside. Back then when Barney Fife found the file, it was funny. Now the thought of it hits home.

Corrections1 ran a Facebook post recently titled “COs find cell phone hidden in hollowed-out biscuit.” This was in the UK; the biscuits had apparently been sent to the prisoner and were discovered before delivery. These biscuits were store bought, hollowed out and repackaged. This, I must admit, was clever. But I again can’t imagine why any facility would allow these products to ever make it into a prisoner’s hands.

You stuck it where?
What are some common places to find contraband? The obvious places on the body itself are tucked up under the genitals, butt cheeks, and even areas that the can be inserted into: the anal cavity and vaginal cavity.

These places are popular because they are easy for the prisoner to use and hard to find in a standard pat down search.

Let’s not even go into how gross it would be to put pills in one’s mouth after being in any of those areas. In plastic bags or not, it’s just gross.  

Pockets, pockets, pockets
Clothing also makes for great hiding places. Many jails allow inmates to keep clothing until processed and sent to general population. This often includes jackets and shoes.

The problem is pant pockets, shirt pockets and jacket pockets are common places for keeping pills and joints. A few pills or a single joint can easy be missed in a pat down search as they blend in with the seams. Not to mention that jacket pockets can be deep and hard to search. I have also seen many jacket pockets that have holes in the bottom corners allowing items to float around deep in the jackets inner layers.

The waist band seem on prisoner’s uniforms can also be easy manipulated to make a pouch like area to tuck in pills and small metal pieces. Another common place I have seen used is when prisoners roll up their pant legs and hide smaller items in the roll.

It’s coming from within
Jails and prisons have a great deal of differences in their physical make up as well as the amount of movement prisoners have within them. I have spent my entire career in or around jails and will openly admit my knowledge of prisons has come from a few trips into facilities and from conversations with friends that work in prisons.

What I do know is that both types of facilities provide a lot of hiding places for inmates. Many facilities are outdated, which creates ever more work for the corrections officers to stay ahead in the hide and seek game.

In my experience, jails tend to have less lethal weapons and more drugs and tobacco products. That isn’t to say inmates in jails don’t possess various weapons, because we all know they do. The issue here is, where the prisoners hide their contraband in the various types of facilities?

Look everywhere
Depending on the type of contraband, prisoners often will not stash it in their cells out of fear of it being found during cell searches. Where then should we look? Common prisoner access areas are popular stashing spots. In and under chairs, tables, around shower areas, any crack or craves large enough hide and conceal items.

Work areas such as kitchens and laundry facilities have endless hiding spots. Both work areas also are good sources for movement of contraband.

Think about it: both areas are responsible for preparing and delivering goods throughout our facilities.  Hiding drugs and weapons in clothing to be passed off during routine exchanges, most often by inmate workers, is very popular and is often done in the presence of officers.

Kitchen workers also make up meal trays that are delivered to various locations by other inmate workers. What a better way to move drugs and weapons than to use items common to the facility and inmate workers than are allowed to move about somewhat freely.

Remain aware
I am fairly sure I have not mentioned any areas or items in this article that readers are not already aware of. Preventing these sources and routes of contraband is difficult. Therefore being aware of your surroundings and carefully paying attention to inmate workers movements are very important during our day to day routines.

Now I am reaching out to you to share with the rest of us some of the weirdest places you have found items hidden.

What are some of the oddest type of contraband you have come across in your years in corrections, and what are some techniques you use to find contraband?

After all, you are as much an expert as the rest of us, so open up and share your knowledge and help educate fellow corrections officer to make our jobs safer. Until next time, remember, search and live.

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