#039;Shakedown#039; at the jail

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2003

A "shakedown" at the Covington County Jail Monday afternoon netted at least one suspected "crack pipe" and various other forms of contraband.

Though the possible "crack pipe" was the only illegal substance found, sheriff's deputies and jailers said anything that isn't issued to inmates is considered contraband and must be confiscated. That includes substances like Tylenol, Anbesol, pornography and, yes, excessive amounts of toiletry items like toilet paper, toothpaste and soap.

"Things we take for granted in the outside world, these guys hoard," said Covington County Sheriff's Department Chief Jerry Edgar. "The inmates are issued certain amounts of items, and anything excess is considered contraband."

During the "shakedown," a search of all cells within a block for illicit material, no weapons were found, only what is termed "usual contraband."

"We did not find any weapons during the search," Edgar said. "That includes shanks, knives - any type of sharp object that could be used against another inmate or guard. We are always pleased when that's the case.

"We did, however, find the usual items - pornographic material, extra rolls of toilet paper, Tylenol and the like," he said. "We allow the inmates to keep their religious material and some magazines, but pornographic material is not allowed. As for hoarding the toilet paper - some of these guys will stash it away and complain and try to get a trade going. We try and prevent that as much as possible."

As the searches are undertaken, jailers and maintenance workers also take the opportunity to check the cells for any problems that could pose safety hazards to either inmates or jailers.

During the "shakedown," the inmates are escorted outside, one block at a time, as jailers and officers go cell to cell searching for contraband. It's at that time that the maintenance workers check each cell to make sure the doors and locks are working properly, water facilities are in good working order and all windows are in tact.

"Some of the guys will take paper, spoons, forks, anything they can get and shove it into the track of the door," said Lt. Howard West of the CCSO. "The maintenance guys come in and check all that out and fix any cell doors that have been damaged. It's amazing how some of these guys do this stuff to cells."

The "shakedown" is also the perfect opportunity to bring area K9 drug-enforcement dogs through the jail.

"We'll have a couple of the K9 units sweep through the cells to make sure we don't miss anything," Edgar said. "If there's any drugs in there, they'll find them."

Although it's impossible to keep all contraband out of the jail, Edgar said routine "shakedowns" have reduced the amount of contraband circulating throughout the jail.

"We can't keep it all out, all of the time," Edgar said. "We do our best, and the routine searches have certainly reduced the amount of contraband in the jail. A lot of the inmates are getting the point, and the amount of found material is decreasing each time."