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From Staff Reports
Surprise shakedowns at prison facilities across the state last week turned up quite a bit of illegal contraband, including a large number of weapons, drugs and paraphernalia and even an electric deep fryer, cooking oil and packaged venison at South Mississippi Correctional Institute outside Leakesville.
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) say the agency is continuing shakedowns at its state prisons and regional facilities as part of an ongoing efforts to remove contraband items for the safety of staff and individuals in the custody, care, and control of the prison system.
It is a tough task, considering the issue of serious understaffing at prisons like SMCI, but according to MDOC officials, searches have occurred at a mixture of facilities since March, including a community work center, technical violation center, state-run prison, and privately operated state prison.
The list of illegal items found includes cash, assorted pills, shanks, cellphones and cellphone-related items, tobacco and tobacco-related items, marijuana, spice, crystal methamphetamine, portable radios, and assorted jewelry.
On April 17, a shakedown in Area I at SMCI produced six shanks, a cellphone battery, two tattoo guns, six syringes, a cellphone charger, a small pack of unknown crystal powder, one small pack of unknown pills and numerous nuisance contraband items. Two weeks earlier in SMCI’s Area II, officers siezed 32 shanks, 12 cellphones, 10 cellphone chargers, a green Dot card number, four small packages of tobacco, numerous assortments of pills, three packages of green leafy substances, a large bottle of Xanax, five sets of cell phone earbuds, one cellular phone SIM card, two small packages of the drug spice and numerous other nuisance items.
“Random large-scale shakedowns are one of the measures among our aggressive steps to limit the flow of contraband in our prison system,” MDOC Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said. “We recognize that completely getting rid of all the contraband at any one facility is unlikely, but we are not letting up in our efforts because cellphones or shanks in the hands of incarcerated residents are a threat to public safety.”
Commissioner Hall said facilities where large amounts of contraband items are found are expected to provide corrective action plans to address the issue.
“We do not intend to exempt any facility nor do we plan to provide advanced notice,” she said.
Other major shakedowns occurred at George County Community Work Center in Lucedale on March 15; Delta Correctional Facility-Technical Violation Center in Leflore County on March 19; and Harrison County Community Work Center in Pascagoula on March 28.