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Article updated: 2/13/2014 8:59 AM

Jail inmates get creative with contraband

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By Associated Press

KOKOMO, Ind. -- With a lot of time on their hands, inmates at the Howard County jail can be creative.

Unlike state prisons where drugs, cellphones and cigarettes make up the majority of contraband found, most of the banned items found inside the Howard County jail are homemade.

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"Most of the stuff we find is made by inmates," said Assistant Jail Commander Lt. Robin Byers.

"There are some homemade weapons, but most of the things they make are to keep them preoccupied," she told the Kokomo Tribune . "One inmate made a monopoly board on the back of a chess board."

Other contraband includes soap carvings and items made out of papier-mache.

"We found one inmate had made a papier-mache gun. He used crushed pencil lead to make it look black. We caught it in early stages of coloring, but he did a pretty good job at making it look like a gun."

Byers said she also has seen inmates make chess pieces and dice out of soap, and playing cards out of boxes or whatever they can find.

Inmates also will find all kinds of ways to try to bring drugs inside the jail. Most of the time, the guards find the drugs before they get into the population.

"One inmate hid crack cocaine behind a false eye," she said. "That was two or three years ago."

Recently, an inmate came in from another facility and brought in drugs, she recalled.

"Most of the time you don't think they have anything on them since they're from another facility," she said.

"He had it hidden in legal mail. By law, we have to search the legal mail in front of them. That time, we had a new officer and the mail didn't get searched as good as it should have been. But as soon as he lit up, we found it."

The inmate in the incident was on lockdown and the drugs were not accessible to others.

There is tobacco, but guards usually catch it after an inmate lights up.

"They usually hide in their underwear," said Byers. "We do find a lot of it. Some of it does get into general population, but once they light up we can smell it. We find a lot of drugs during strip searches around the anal cavity. Sometimes we'll find it in a plastic bag or balloon."

In case of an inmate swallowing drugs, they are placed in a dry cell until they pass the substance.

"A lot of times inmates will swallow something that we don't know about. And once they pass it, they get it in."

As far as cellphones go, Byers said those are not a big problem like in state prisons.

"We've had inmates try. When they're processed, they try to hide it, but we've always found them. We've never had any get to the back (general population) except once when a person claiming to be an attorney once tried to bring one in. We discovered later he was a paralegal, but wasn't the inmate's attorney. He was some distant relative."

When it comes to females, the main contraband is makeup.

Byers said women will use just about anything to make themselves look good.

"For females the big thing is to take magazines and rub baby oil on the pages to rub the coloring off and use it as makeup," she said. "They use pencils as eyeliner and eye shadow."

Inmates also have learned to give tattoos using homemade items.

"We've had a couple of people who have gotten small tattoos in here, but there's not that many. We take pictures of the inmates' tattoos so we know if they get one here."

Byers said inmates will soak the color off M&M's and use graphite from pencils mixed with baby oil to make their coloring and they use a staple as a tattoo gun.

One inmate, she said, made pictures using paper sacks and pencils and displayed them in his cell as art.

"He was very good at it."

"Some inmates are pretty innovative," she continued. "If they would just use their time on the street as they do in here, there would probably be less people in here. Some actually have artistic ability."

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