Jails upping K-9 searches because of contraband problems

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. -- Jails across the country are seeing an increase of people sneaking contraband into jails.

This has jail operators taking action, because they say it puts the safety of the guards and inmates at risk.

Jail operators in Mississippi say the problem with inmates sneaking in drugs, cellphones and other things that shouldn’t be in there is getting so bad, they are taking action.

Management and Training Corporation runs four jails in Mississippi, including the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs, and they’re now bringing in K-9 teams to sniff out the problem.

“We have a K-9 unit, three handlers, two dogs that are highly trained that go in unannounced and they’re looking for contraband. So they’ll go in and the dogs will sniff the inmates. We’ll bring the inmates out into a general area,” said Management and Training’s marketing director Issa Arnita.

He says the dogs have near perfect accuracy, and will sit and alert a guard once they’ve picked up a hit.

The dogs are even trained to smell cellphones.

The K-9 team will make constant rounds at the company's four jails in Mississippi, and do random sweeps.

The state recently put up new 30-foot nets around its jails so it would be harder for people on the outside to throw contraband in.

New body scanners are also in place so visitors can’t bring any contraband in.

Arnita says marijuana and cellphones are the most common things brought into jails illegally, and it’s not just dangerous it also defeats the purpose of a correctional facility.

“The idea is to get them trained and educated so when the leave they don’t end back up into the system,” said Arnita.

The issue of illegal contraband is also a big problem in Shelby County.

Chip Washington, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, says the office started doing random sweeps of Shelby County jails with K-9 units more than a year ago.

The sweeps happened a few times last year, and Washington says the contraband problem has gotten better since the searches began.

Washington and Arnita hope the dogs will also serve as a deterrent so people won’t even think about sneaking anything in.

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