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Prison Contraband: Prevalence, Impacts, and Interdiction Strategies

NCJ Number
Corrections: Policy, Practice and Research Volume: Online Dated: 2021 Pages: 1-18
Date Published
April 2021
18 pages

This article summarizes research into prison contraband incidents, policies, and practices compiled from a national survey across prisons in six U.S. states.


Prison contraband poses a substantial threat to the safety of correctional staff and incarcerated people. Yet there has been little research on critical contraband issues. Using descriptive analyses of the 2018 National Survey of Correctional Contraband, a data collection effort involving 301 prisons across six state departments of corrections, the current paper addresses these knowledge gaps through a multi-state, scholarly examination of contraband. The authors found that prisons recovered an average of 34 weapons, 31 cell phones, and 28 controlled substances over the 12-month study period. Respondents also noted that both staff and visitors were conduits for illicit items in prisons, though they reported more staff violations than visitor violations for contraband-related incidents. Finally, the authors found that agencies employed a mix of strategies and policies to prevent, detect, and remove contraband from their prisons. The authors discuss the implications of this work for policy and future research. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: April 1, 2021