Quote of the Day: Contraband in a police-state edition

“The illicit trade makes a mockery of restrictions and prohibitions imposed in what are literally miniature police states—and points to the impossibility of imposing similar controls in the larger and relatively free society outside the walls.”

The State cannot control contraband inside of a literal police state. Even inside of maximum security prisons, drugs, weapons, cellphones, and other contraband are rampant.


Contraband seized by the Mississippi Dept. of Corrections

Reason.com explains just how widespread the problem is:

That’s such a prison tradition that exhibits of improvised and smuggled weapons are standard attractions offered by corrections facilities for the edification of the public. The Texas Prison Museum touts “the craftiness and creativeness of inmates who manufacture weapons from materials found within the prison units.” Florida advertised its similar exhibition with a press release asking, “Have you ever seen a prison shank (or homemade weapon), or a zip gun?”

Shanks are the most common weapons inside prison walls, to the point that National Criminal Justice Reference Service researchers went to the trouble of testing new and supposedly unsharpenable material for toothbrushes, razors, and broom handles. But guns are sufficiently common that several inmates were charged in 2014 with smuggling a pistol into Florida’s Columbia Correctional Institution—not to settle a score, but to shoot themselves as part of a fraudulent lawsuit against the prison.

Drugs and phones obviously need to come from the outside. Weapons are more typically of inmate manufacture, utilizing an astonishing variety of materials. One night I watched an episode of the MSNBC show “Lockdown”. An inmate was brought up on charges for possession of a ball of peeled paint. I had no idea something so mundane could be such a weapon. So of course I had to try it myself.

Devastating. That could absolutely ruin someone’s day.


1 3/4″ ball of peeled paint and a sock.

Reason squares the circle by bringing this back to the “free” world outside the bars:

“Officials contemplating inflicting a new round of prohibitions on the society around them might be well served to stop and consider the failure of such measures in the tightly controlled confines of penal institutions. When bars and unannounced searched become spurs to innovation, and tight rules become business opportunities for crooked guards, what’s the chance of enforcing restrictions in the world outside of prison walls?”

The answer is they can’t. But that won’t stop them from trying.


  1. Spencer says:

    These guys manage to hide and store weapons (and other contraband) in some amazing places, often inside their behinds. Definitely a wise idea to wear gloves when handling such items.

    1. I assure you that paint ball has never been anywhere sketchy

  2. Spencer says:

    Well, I was concerned.

  3. samuraichatter says:

    I’m not so sure about the sock though. I mean who has a single sock lying around for such experimentation?

    On the real, prison culture & “crafts” is fascinating.

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Quote of the Day: Contraband in a police-state edition

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