Smugglers combine new and traditional methods

Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 00:00

The tricks for getting knives, phones and drugs into Mountjoy are evolving

The melting of toothbrush handles against razor blades to fashion weapons – known as chivs – is still popular in Mountjoy Prison.

In a sinister development, some chivs are made using two or three blades side by side. It means if a prisoner is slashed across the face, they will sustain more than one cut, making the wounds impossible to stitch.

This is done to inflict a bad scar on a person’s face, and is known as “striping”.

In other cases, large hinges have been pulled from doors and walls at the jail. They have been sharpened at one side and cloth and tape wrapped around them to make a grip. The result is a machete-type weapon. In other cases, blades from Stanley knives have been attached to toothbrush handles.

Because prisoners must pass through metal detectors when going into the yards, some have made chivs from plastic trays, sharpening them to make a stabbing or slashing weapon.

Getting drugs in

New airport-style security and sniffer dogs have made it more difficult for visitors to smuggle in drugs. Some prisoners perceive it is easier for their visitors to smuggle in tablets – mainly tranquillisers – than cocaine and heroin.

This has resulted in an increase of tablets being found. Consignments of 150-200 pills are not infrequent, though one visitor was caught trying to smuggle 600 in one go.

Despite nets having been erected over the exercise yards, some try to get drugs in by throwing small parcels from the streets around the prison – over the walls and into the yards when prisoners exercise.

Some items have been put into a sock, which is set on fire and thrown over the wall. The idea is the flames would burn through the net, allowing the drugs to fall down into the yard to be retrieved by prisoners. Small repair patches are visible.

In a recent trend, visitors try to bring in small mobile phones manufactured to look like key fobs used to open vehicles.

The fobs are presented at the X-ray scanner as the visitor’s car keys.

However, a number of fobs were found to be phones. The fobs can be bought on the internet or at markets and are seen as novelty trinkets, though smuggler-friendly in a prison setting.

Chess board

Old-fashioned modes of smuggling have not died out. Staff have found a visitor trying to bring in a wooden inch-high chess board. A section of the board had been hollowed-out and a phone inserted before the felt cloth under the board had been stuck back in place.

In another case, a visitor brought in a packet of digestive biscuits, that had been hollowed out. A mobile phone and drugs had been packed into the space. Others conceal phones internally and pass or retrieve them when they use the toilet.

Chargers are also smuggled this way. The plugs are removed and the cables wrapped up and concealed internally by visitors, newly committed prisoners or those returning from temporary release.

Prisoners often try to hook the charger cables up to a power supply in their cells, and when they do they can fuse the lights.

“It’s often the first indication we get that someone is using the phone and charging it – the lights will have gone in the cell,” said one source.

The prison now uses a Body orifice security scanner chair to check if visitors or prisoners have packed contraband into their bodies. The suspect sits on a chair which scans them for contraband.