To ensure safety and security within their walls, prisons must constantly evolve to protect against threats both external and internal.
Items dropped by a drone would bypass a prison’s inspection protocols and include those that could jeopardize the safety of inmates – drugs, weapons, cellphones, etc. Accordingly, Corrections’ interest in this new means of security makes sense.
That said, Nebraska’s prisons – especially the Tecumseh State Correctional Institute and the Nebraska State Penitentiary – already struggle with significant safety problems that stem from overcrowding.
These two things, though seemingly unrelated, loop back to one thing: the Corrections system’s overarching mission to keep prisoners safe as they’re rehabilitated for eventual release. Both aerial defenses against drones and improvements to the conditions faced by inmates advance this common goal.
Unlike other facilities in other states – including a Georgia prison that spotted 10 drones in a single day last year – Nebraska has seen few public reports of drones at its prisons.
But the broader threat comes from what prison officials have called the “submarket economy” of smuggled items being sold and traded among prisoners. Remember that a 2017 riot at Tecumseh that killed two began when some inmates revolted over the confiscation of 150 pounds of homemade alcohol.
In that respect, proactively investing in preventing contraband from reaching inmates represents a positive development by prisons officials. It’s far too early to have precise figures on the cost, but, depending on the system chosen, installing and maintaining one could cost seven figures.
While that expenditure could easily be justified, it must be paired with similar measures to improve the conditions documented within an ACLU lawsuit. The “quite scathing” expert reports detailed shortcomings in providing physical and mental health care and excessive use of solitary confinement.
Fixing these problems requires a sizable investment, the same as defending against drone drops.
Regardless of whether the threat to inmate safety comes from outside or inside the walls is immaterial. Just as drones pose a clear danger, so, too, do overcrowded prisons.
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