Prison Drug Smuggling: The Visiting Room

By Seth Ferranti 06/13/12

People visiting loved ones in prison are a major source of drugs inside. Here's how it works.

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Balloons are used to pass drugs
mouth-to-mouth.
Photo via

Over two million people are currently locked up in the US, and many of them are right now scheming ways to smuggle drugs into prison, ensuring they remain widely-available inside. And the most tried-and-tested method of getting drugs in is through the visiting room. "When I get that VI [visitation] and I'm out on that dance floor, I'm trying to cop," one prisoner tells The Fix. "All the homies are." Although the formats vary, all prisons allow some kind of contact visits, and prisoners take advantage to obtain drugs from marijuana to meth—and just about anything else you can think of. Prior to a visit, a prisoner's girl will put several grams of pot or heroin into a balloon or condom. Before her man arrives in the visiting room, she'll put the balloons in her mouth—and then transfer them from her mouth to the prisoner's mouth when they kiss. The prisoner swallows the balloons, only to throw them up or retrieve them after defecation later.

"When my girl comes to visit, I always try to get her to bring some balloons," another prisoner says. "Not too many, just a couple she can slide in my mouth when we kiss. I like to smoke me some weed—but if I get some heroin, I'm selling that." Due to the widespread use of this technique, many prisons have rules in place to limit kissing, hugging and touching. Authorities also employ measures including strip searches, dry cell detention, surveillance cameras, patrolling guards and random pat searches with drug detection devices. But despite these efforts, the drug flow hasn't stopped, and there's always another approach to try. "If I don't swallow the balloons when she kisses me, she can put them in the hot dog she buys me from the vending machine," the second prisoner says. "Or she can hand me the balloon and I can stash it in my boot or underwear." Prisoners are also known to hide duct-taped or plastic-wrapped ounces of marijuana or heroin in their anal cavity—any extremes to get the drugs they want.

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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.

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