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Oklahoma Prisons Director Stepping up Contraband Crackdown

Oklahoma prison officials have conducted four raids already this year to combat a growing contraband problem.

A Department of Corrections team raided cells at the Jefferson County Detention Center this week, DOC Director Joe Allbaugh said the team uses dogs, cell phone detectors and deep-tissue scanners.

"Inmates in our system need to understand that contraband is not going to be tolerated, and they'll never know when we're going to show up and conduct these searches," Allbaugh said.

The Jefferson County raid was particularly fruitful, with the team finding 31 cell phones, 121.5 grams of synthetic marijuana, 78 grams of marijuana, 1.92 grams of methamphetamine, 5 gallons of self-brewed alcohol, 48 sticks of incense, 29 cell phone charges, 17 lighters, 11 improvised pipes, 1.5 pounds of tobacco, seven MP3 players, two tattoo guns and two improvised stabbing devices.

"It's like 'The 12 Days of Christmas,' what a lovely song, only the inmates have really taken it to town," Allbaugh said.

A lot of the contraband is smuggled in through prison kitchens, though drones have also been used recently. Concealing items in kids’ clothes during weekend visitation is another smuggling tactic.

"We virtually have to pat down almost everybody who goes to visitation," Allbaugh said. "We definitely do not want to do anything to impede visitation on Saturday and Sunday at our facilities, because that's a part of the healing process."

The first raid of 2016 happened before Allbaugh took office, but he plans to continue them. He declined to comment on the raid procedure in case inmates found out about them.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.