If there's anyone in the field of law enforcement that is most skilled in conducting a physical search or property shake down it may just be an experienced Correctional Officer.
Incarcerated offenders have plenty of time to think of the best places to hide drugs, weapons or other dangerous contraband. Experienced officers who are skilled in locating concealed contraband are the best line of defense for themselves, fellow officers, and the prison units they patrol.


A calm and calculated officer uses his or her polite and professional approach when coming in contact with an offender about to be strip searched. The professional officer treats the offender with basic human dignity even while doing this difficult yet very important job. Keeping the offender calm while being strip searched makes the job of the officer and fellow staff easier and much more effective. Officers are then able to focus on finding contraband instead of subduing an angry offender.


An offenders body and clothing is the first thing a Correctional Officer inspects while doing a strip search. A skilled officer avoids possible disruption by respectfully asking the offender to remove his or her clothing. Conscious of intravenous needles or other sharp objects, the officer firmly shakes out all clothing before further handling and inspection.

A skilled Correctional Officer feels for any foreign objects and observes the stitching patterns on clothing. Altered or inconsistent stitching patterns may indicate a small stash spot for drugs. Layered folds, such as those found on the waist, neck or arm line are hot spots for a potential find. Stitching irregularities on a pillow or mattress is another indication of a possible find.


Just as drug traffickers anchor and drop dope into the Rio Grande river for later pick up, prison offenders anchor and drop their contraband into toilets and sinks. Offenders remove the threadlike nylon from the elastic band of their clothing and weave fine ropes.

Contraband is tied up with this rope and dropped into the toilet hole and pushed further inside. A small paper staple is attached to the holding end of the rope and dropped for later pick-up.
Not only do skilled officers run a mirror under the toilets rim and scan for hidden contraband, but they also point their flashlight into the darkness of the toilet hole and scan for anchors. Bingo!


Unless an offender has ingested their contraband, items such as drugs or knives can be found with a standard body search of the hair, mouth, palms, under arms, and feet. If there is valid suspicion that an offender has ingested contraband inside their body, the offender should be x-rayed by medical staff.

Many offenders know how to make stash spots that can trick the human eye but can't fool an officer who knows how to use their finger tips.
Offenders often hide contraband inside small holes carved inside of the walls in their cells, then cloak the holes with toothpaste or white putty made of baby powder or any other white powdery substance. An experienced Correctional Officer will run his or her fingers down every corner of the walls and inspect for tampering or other soft or irregular spots.


Invisible compartments are often built inside the rear of lockers. Offenders use illustration drawing board or other card board material to create an invisible 'wall' at the rear, bottom or top of a locker or drawer. These hidden compartments are invisible to the eye but not to an officers knuckles. Knock on all four corners and feel for hollow surfaces.


Wily offenders often hide their contraband inside of the food purchased from commissary. Experienced officers know this and inspect the packaging of all sealed food items. Any inconsistencies or irregularities on the lining of any packaged or sealed food product is a huge indicator that contraband is hidden inside.

Just because a jar of peanut butter appears new doesn't mean that contraband is not buried inside. Offenders often boil their jars of peanut butter in slightly hot water which then causes the peanut butter to melt. Contraband is then dropped inside of the melted peanut butter. Once removed from boiling hot water and cooled down, the top layer of peanut butter will appear smooth.

If suspicious, an officer should use a sterile plastic spoon to feel for contraband inside of the peanut butter. It's always a good idea to keep sterile and sealed plastic spoons handy in case it is needed for this kind of search. Informing the offender or consulting with a higher ranking officer before inspecting inside of any food item is always a good idea. A skilled Correctional Officer can never be too careful.

How well Correctional Officers search the environment they work at will make all the difference of how safe their prison is.

Source - Retired 4 Stripe TDCJ Correctional Officer interview 11/5/2012 - Anonymous


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