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Drone carrying cell phone, marijuana crashes in prison yard

A drone that crashed into the yard at Washington State Prison was loaded with cell phones, tobacco, oxycodone and marijuana, a Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman said Wednesday.

A growing problem, drones have become the newest way inmates have used to get contraband that can be sold to other prisoners for a significant profit.

RELATED: Inmates break out, then back in

Corrections spokeswoman Joan Heath said the drone crashed to the ground at the prison near Davisboro in east Georgia around 10:45 p.m. Monday. She said it was carrying four Samsung Galaxy J1 cellphones, 7.8 ounces of tobacco spilt between two baggies, a USB charger cable, a pound of marijuana divided into 16 individual bags and 31 C-230 oxycodone pills along with some broken piece of pills.

Confiscated cell phones were on display at a 2015 press conference. Federal authorities had obtained indictments that allege two groups of inmates used cell phones inside state prisons to run a drug ring across the metro area and perpetrate fraud schemes against individuals outside the prison walls. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The state prison system has struggled for decades to stop contraband from getting to inmates but, they admit, prisoners are constantly finding ways to skirt any systems put in place to thwart them.

Tobacco is not allowed in Georgia prisons so inmates sell it to each other for a significant mark up.

And there is a market in the cell blocks for drugs as well.

There also is a demand for cell phones as prisoners use them to continue their criminal activities while still locked up. 

A drone that crashed at Washington State Prison was carrying marijuana, among other contraband.

Between July 1, 2016 and the end of June this year,  officers seized 9,379  cell phones from inmates and visitors at all 67 Georgia correctional facilities, which include secure prisons and lower-level facilities. 

The most common way inmates get such banned items is by paying correctional officers to smuggle them in or getting their friends and relatives throwing packages over perimeter fences. Unmanned drones are a relatively new approach.

For the most part, prison administrators only know that a drone has come and gone because pieces of packages dropped from the sky are found stuck in fences or in prison yards. 

Still, in 2013, four people were arrested in Morgan in South Georgia after they used a drone to carry two pounds of tobacco, a cell phone and binoculars to the yard at Calhoun State Prison. 

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