Drug Sweeps in Prison

By Seth Ferranti 03/14/13

Routine shakedowns for drugs or alcohol catch inmates by surprise, a prisoner tells The Fix.

Shakedowns often occur while inmates are
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In prisons nationwide, correctional officers directed by Special Investigation Specialists (SIS) may swoop in at any moment to search prisoners' belongings for drugs and alcohol. The searches are routine, but conducted at random, in order to catch inmates unprepared. Unlike in the "real world," authorities don't need a search warrant. "They came in my unit all ninja-like one time," a prisoner tells The Fix. "When the lights went on they were standing all around the unit in strategic positions shouting at us to get up and stand still." These searches may be prompted by a positive drug test, a guard smelling marijuana or alcohol or finding drug paraphernalia, or a tip from an insider. SIS staff tend to crack down while prisoners are sleeping, so they don't have time to hide or "keister" their stash. "Those cops were on us, we couldn't even go to our lockers or put on our clothes," the prisoner says. "They didn't give us the chance to grab nothing or even move. They shook us down one by one. A couple of my homeboys were hit. They had their stashes in their underwear or socks and couldn't get rid of it. That was a slick move those cops put down. They put us out on the yard and tore our unit apart." The SIS staff and correctional officers will thoroughly search, shakedown and sometimes even tear up a prisoner's belongings, often leaving a unit looking as if as if it were "hit by a tornado," the prisoner reports. "We don't have no rights in here," he says. "It's like the Gestapo. They just bust down your door and rip your shit apart like it's nothing."

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.