Amazon isn't the only commercial operation that wants to use drones to deliver packages. Prison inmates have discovered that drone delivery is a great way to smuggle cellphones, drugs and other contraband items over high fences into prison yards.
Corrections officers at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, recently saw red lights in the sky, headed toward the prison. Outside, a guard spotted a man running away through the woods and, the next day, prison guards found a parcel of marijuana, a cellphone and tobacco hanging on the power lines and a crashed drone outside the prison, Correction.com
Officials then located a campsite with the drone's remote control, a bottle of grape Gatorade and some drugs.
"It was a delivery system," said Bryan P. Stirling, the director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, told The New York Times
"They were sending in smaller amounts in repeated trips. They would put it on there, they would deliver it, someone inside would get it somehow, and they would send it back out and send more in."
Authorities have no idea how many successful deliveries were made by drones before they caught on to the technique, but the Times notes that authorities have detected at least three similar attempts at various prisons in the U.S. in the past two years.
In January, officials found a drone in a recreation yard at a prison in Bennettsville, South Carolina, holding synthetic marijuana and a cell phone charger, the Times reported.
Cellphones are valued in prison, costing up to $1,000, because they are not monitored like prison phones and can be used by inmates to run criminal operations outside the bars, communicate secretly with each other and arrange and pay for drone deliveries.
Cecilia Reynolds of the Lee Correctional Institution told the Times that a recent search turned up 17 cellphones in one inmate's cell, which she suspects arrived on drones.
Stirling told the Times, "When I started in this job it (drone flight) was all very futuristic. Amazon wasn’t even talking that much at that point of using them to make deliveries. Now it’s something we’re having to devote extensive resources to.
"We put up higher fences to stop people from throwing things over them. Now they’re just flying over them."
reports that drone deliveries into prisons also have happened in Georgia, Canada and Australia.
David McCauley, of the Australian Public Service Association, said, "At the end of the day, if they can throw tennis balls over the wall with drugs in them, and with staffing levels the way they are, it’s going to be very difficult to stop these drones."
Last year, a drone attempting to fly drugs into Dublin's Wheatfield Prison was trapped by wires rigged over the prison to prevent helicopter escapes, The Daily Mail
Stephane Lemaire, president of Quebec's prison guard union, told The Ottawa Sun,
"This sort of thing happens often in prisons all across Quebec."
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