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Keeping contraband out of jail

The main job for officials at the Douglas County Jail is to keep inmates inside the facility, but many times they are also responsible for keeping illegal items out.

Some inmates will try to do anything to bring items into jail during their stay, but officials are trained to keep this contraband out. Jail officials said the most common items that inmates will try to sneak into the compound are tobacco products, prescription pills and narcotics.

“Our training is we don’t want anything brought in,” said Bill McKay, the assistant jail administrator at the Douglas County Jail.

Those coming into the facility are strip searched by officials before entering the jail. One common place that officials will find these contraband items during strip searches is under folds of the body, including women’s breasts.

The personal belongings that inmates carry upon their arrest and clothes are stored and inventoried by officials until their stay at the jail is over.

On average, the Douglas County Jail houses between 60 to 70 men and women, all of whom are subject to random shakedowns from jail officials. Tobacco products, prescription medicine and handmade weapons are among the items most often found during these shakedowns. Douglas County corrections officer Mike Anderson said occasionally he has seen inmates try to ferment food into an alcoholic drink.

“Hooch, we will find that from time-to-time,” Anderson said. “They make that off food items found on their trays.”

Inmates who create and hide weapons often do so to give themselves a feeling of security from others while in jail.

“Usually they make a weapon because they feel safer if they have one,” McKay said.

There are penalties for inmates who are caught trying to sneak items into jail. One common penalty for offenders is serving time in lockdown. Inmates who are in lockdown spend 23 hours of their day confined in a room alone, only having one hour to spend outside of their cell.

Criminal charges can also be levied against inmates who are caught trying to sneak items inside the jail.

“Introducing contraband into jail is a felony,” McKay said. “At minimum, it’s a gross misdemeanor for sure, and anything larger than that is a felony.”

Drug smuggling has recently become more common in Douglas County. Officials have noticed an increase in attempts to sneak narcotics into the jail over the past five years.

“It’s common now, which wasn’t so common five years ago,” Anderson said.