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Shanks, Smokes, Cell Phones Found in “Massive” State Prison Shakedowns

PHOTOS: Dept. of Corrections

PARCHMAN, Miss.–Prisoners in Mississippi have had access to many different kinds of items they are not supposed to have, some of them quite dangerous, said the Dept. of Correction Monday. More than 150 shanks (knives made in prison by inmates) were found over the past few weeks.

Besides the shanks, prisoners have been able to get cell phones, tobacco and other kinds of contraband, said Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher.

“One shank or one cellphone is one too many. Officers routinely do periodic shakedowns unit by unit. But this is a show of force with a large number of officers both in and outside the agency searching units simultaneously,” said Fisher.

“This is a public safety issue.”

Fisher said Corrections has been conducting massive shakedowns to make sure prisoners do not have access to the weapons, phones or drugs.

The most recent shakedown was Friday at Parchman. Fisher said since Feb. 6 two private and two state prisons have been searched.

The seized contraband lessens the ability of prison gangs, also known as security threat groups, to threaten the safety of officers, fellow inmates and the public, Fisher said in a Corrections news release. Inmates have used shanks to harm officers and fellow inmates and cellphones to harass and threaten crime victims.

He said the dangerous work of a corrections officer is a reason they should earn more than $22,000 per year, which is the starting pay from the state. There have been efforts in the Mississippi legislature to give them raises.

Shanks 2

Fisher described the contraband taken at each facility:

Contraband items found at MSP on Friday include 25 shanks, 11 cellular phones, one MP3 player, nine cellular phone chargers, and a large amount of what appeared to be marijuana. The other locations and items found include: 

  • South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Greene County, Feb. 20, 36 shanks, 13 cellphones, two cellphone chargers, a tattoo gun, an assortment of pills, two bags of a white powdery substance and two Bluetooth devices. 
  • Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Wilkinson County, Feb. 14, more than 60 shanks, razors, watches, medication, a VHS tape and tattoo guns. 
  • East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County, Feb. 6, more than 50 shanks, tobacco products, cellphone batteries, tobacco, SIM cards, a small amount of cash, improvised metal and wooden clubs, a homemade crack pipe, a bag of white crystal substance, suspected pills, jewelry, and tattoo material.

This action is one of many the agency has taken to keep contraband from getting into inmates’ hands, including installing netting around perimeter fences and using body scanners, hand wand metal detectors and K-9 cell phone detector dogs, said Fisher.

“If we suspect someone has violated the law by bringing in contraband, we will refer the individual for prosecution,” Fisher said.

Introduction of contraband into a correctional facility is punishable by three to 15 years in prison, a maximum $25,000 fine, or both. Conspiracy to introduce contraband carries up to a $5,000 fine, five years imprisonment, or both.

Fisher said he appreciates assistance from the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol in conducting the shakedowns. The agency is assisting MDOC officers from Institutions and Community Corrections for the first time in years.

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