Threats posed against the prison system can also come from outside its walls, the British Ministry of Justice admits. The Ministry stated that, in the first five months of this year, nine attempts to smuggle illegal drugs into prisons in England and Wales were prevented. What is problematic is that the attempted crimes involved the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
Worries grow as the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) warns that weapons might be the next subject of smuggling inside jails. A test undergone earlier this year revealed that such a package can be dropped discretely into a maximum security prison. Because of their courtyards, prisons have open air spaces and are therefore vulnerable to drone infiltration. So far, most smuggled objects via drones have been SIM cards, phones and batteries.
"In a nutshell, our intelligence suggests that the use of UAVs to release items into our prisons is an emerging threat," Eve Richard, a senior analyst at NOMS, said.
"It's not a huge issue at the moment but there is the potential for it to increase and become more of an issue," Richard concluded.
To counter any possibility of honest misuse, a number of associations have drafted a "drone code" that explains the rules that drone owners and users must follow when operating one. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), NATS, the company that regulates UK's air traffic, and BALPA, the British pilots' union revised and approved the document. The necessity for such a document is based on the increasing popularity of small drones in the UK, where a recent jail sentence was given to a man flying a UAV over a football stadium.
In March, security personnel in Bedford Prison found a crashed drone and its load, consisting of drugs, phones and a knife. It is assumed that it was the first UAV smuggling attempt in Britain.
"We're talking about big, organized gangs, and they're not about disorder, they're about making money. There is a huge mark up on drugs in prison," said Mark Icke, vice president of the Prison Governors Association. A drone with GPS that can carry up to 3.3 pounds can be purchased for around $1,500 and can be operated almost immediately.
The U.S. detention system is faced with similar challenges. In August, police stopped a plan to deliver porn and drugs into a Maryland prison after a previous successful drop of marijuana and heroin in one of Ohio's correctional facilities.