Drug-Dropping Drone Sparks Brawl in Ohio Prison

By McCarton Ackerman 08/05/15

A drop delivery of drugs and tobacco led to nine inmates being held in solitary confinement.

Flying drone

A drug-dropping drone at an Ohio prison sparked a recreation yard brawl between nine inmates and a security emergency at the facility.

The incident took place last Wednesday at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. The drone flew over the prison at 2:30pm, and dropped drugs and tobacco into the north recreation yard, but prison officials were merely responding to the brawl and were unaware of its presence until reviewing security camera footage afterwards.

After using pepper spray to stop the fight, all nine inmates were put in solitary confinement and corrections officers searched 200 inmates from the north and south recreation yards before returning them to their cells.

During the fight, the package was thrown over a fence from the north recreation yard to the south recreation yard. Prison workers later found the package in the equipment room of the south yard and recovered all of the drug content, which included five ounces of tobacco, 2.3 ounces of marijuana, and 0.2 of an ounce of heroin that amounted to 140 individual doses.

Prisoners have moved well beyond throwing tennis balls with drugs over fences to keep the trade going behind bars. Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith confirmed that other state prisons have dealt with drones in the past and said that “our agency’s top security administrators are taking a broad approach to increase awareness and detection of unmanned aerial systems.”

Authorities have recorded similar attempts at various U.S. prisons in the last two years. Last January, the New York Times reported that officials found a drone with synthetic marijuana and a cellphone charger inside the recreation yard of a prison in Bennettsville, S.C.

That same month, prison guards at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, S.C., found a crashed drone outside of the prison that had contained a parcel of marijuana, tobacco, and a cellphone.

Bryan P. Stirling, the director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, suggested that numerous drone deliveries had been made before Lee prison officials finally caught on.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.