MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- Detention officers say there has been a "sudden increase" in attempts to introduce contraband, including narcotics, into the Madison County Detention Facility lately.
"Contraband is power," summarized Lieutenant Kevin Thompson. "Whoever has the contraband has the power."
Officers have especially seen an increase in the use of the postal service to attempt to get inmates illegal drugs. Thompson says officers have been so efficient at catching drugs as inmates enter the jail through extensive searches that people are exploring older methods of sneaking in contraband, including snail mail.
Leivy Ortega, detention clerk at the jail, showed WHNT News 19 a greeting card someone had mailed. Glued and hidden inside were suboxone strips.
Officers examining mail have also intercepted letters soaked in solutions of narcotics. Ortega explained that people dilute the drug with water and soak paper in it repeatedly, iron the paper to make it look fresh, and then write a letter on it and mail it.
"After reading the letter," said Ortega, "they eat it. Chew it up and eat it. And sometimes they cut it into strips and sell it, too."
Lt. Thompson said as the law enforcement side increases enforcement of the current drug laws, the population of the Madison County Detention Facility increases too. That means officers have more contact with inmates awaiting trial for drug crimes and often, those people are still addicted to narcotics.
Lt. Thompson said the staff is not only aware of what's going on, they're constantly training to keep up with the latest techniques to smuggle drugs into the jail and working to stop them. For him, it's not just about keeping away illegal substances; it's a safety issue for officers as well as the inmates themselves. He says keeping drugs and contraband out of their hands decreases assaults and victimization inside the jail.