How Do Items Get Snuck into Prison? 5 Common Ways

How Do Items Get Snuck into Prison? 5 Common Ways

Whether your loved one got caught sneaking drugs or other items they shouldn’t have into prison, or you’re just curious about how things wind up in prison that shouldn’t be there, this article has the answers. You might be surprised to learn how creative inmates get to have the items they want smuggled into their facility.

Two out of five England and Wales prisoners are willing to commit some kind of offense to obtain drugs in prison. And that’s just one statistic. Smuggling contraband into prison is something that probably occurs way more than any of us want to imagine.

However, it’s important to note that not all things snuck into prison are illegal items, like drugs and weapons. Instead, they just might not be allowed by the prison.

For example, some prisons may not allow any personal care products that contain alcohol, like mouthwash or some shampoos and conditioners. Others might not allow razors to be brought in because they can, of course, be used as a weapon.

Even if the item isn’t illegal, per se, the inmate can still get in significant trouble for sneaking in the items they so desperately want. Still, they go to great lengths to make it happen, as do their loved ones who want to see them get the items they need.

How Do Items Get Snuck Into Prison?

There are several ways that items might get snuck into a prison, and some of them would definitely surprise you. The thing is, inmates and the people sneaking things in have had to get really creative over the years as regulations strengthen and prisons catch on to their methods.

A few years from now, we might be seeing all new ways to sneak stuff into a prison, but here are a few ways that inmates manage to do it now:

Inmate Bodies

You have probably heard news stories about people going to prison for a crime only for guards to find objects placed within their bodies (mouths and other areas – use your imagination) upon strip-searching them. In fact, this happens so frequently that it’s rare not to find a prison that has regular strip-searching policies in place.

It’s not uncommon for an incoming inmate to have to strip down and complete the “squat and cough” process to make sure they’re not hiding anything in their bodies or clothing. Inmates may need to also submit to weekly or monthly checks to ensure that they’re not sneaking things in and hiding them within their bodies, either.

Inmate Visits

Another common way for objects to come into a prison is through prison visits. Many prisons allow some sort of visitation for inmates so they can see their loved ones. Visitors might even be allowed to see the inmate without a barrier in between, making it easier for them to hand them something they brought into the prison.

However, this can be extremely difficult to accomplish in most facilities. Visitors have to go through a strict check-in process with pat-downs and bag checks before they visit their loved one. The visitation may also be recorded or have a guard present to make sure nothing sketchy happens.

Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and plenty of prisoners and visitors have found a way to make it happen.


Family and friends can often send mail to their loved ones in prison. Although mail processes and regulations are very strict in most prisons, one small oversight can help a prisoner get whatever they’ve been wanting that they can’t normally have in prison.

Most prisons require packages to be opened and checked by staff before they’re delivered to an inmate. But that doesn’t mean it always works that way. Some prison staff might be easily bought off by an inmate who really wants a package to go undetected. Other packages may just not be checked as thoroughly as they’re supposed to be.

Other packages or letters might also be a little more on the creative side, especially when it comes to drugs. Letters aren’t always opened and checked by the facility, so it’s possible that an envelope that appears to just have a card or letter in it might contain a small amount of drugs heading straight to an inmate.

Prison Guards

Believe it or not, there are prison guards who will help inmates get what they want even though they know the potential ramifications of doing so. Not all guards are honest. And, if you think about it, using the guards to do your sneaky servicing can be one of the simplest ways to get what you want.

Guards that do this are usually being offered something they simply don’t want to pass up, like money or sexual favors. For people who are new to the job, it can be especially enticing to be offered something in exchange for doing a favor for an inmate.

Outside Prison Visitors

Depending on how a prison is set up, it may not be too difficult for outsiders to have access, in a way, to the inmates. Most prisons have a secure gate or fence around the property to prevent inmates from sneaking out, but that doesn’t mean that people can’t throw things over or use a drone or something similar to get things where they need to go.

Prisoners often have allotted time outdoors each day, which makes for the perfect time for them to meet up with the person who’s going to deliver their items to them.

What Happens to Prison Smugglers Who Have Contraband in Jail?

The laws surrounding sneaking items into a prison can vary by state, locality, and the prison. However, it’s safe to assume that the consequences are serious for both the inmate and the person who’s bringing items in.

Some states make the consequences more serious for prison staff or volunteers who break the rules than they do for people who don’t work in the prison. In most cases, though, you can expect to be charged with, at minimum, a misdemeanor for a single offense, with higher potential charges for multiple offenses.

You can also get charged with conspiring to smuggle items or assisting someone else to do it. There’s no good outcome for people who attempt to do this, especially for the inmates involved, who will likely see more time tacked onto their current sentence.

What Can You Take into a Prison Legally?

The items allowed in a prison vary with each facility. And, even allowed items are subject to several regulations. For example, most personal care items, like body wash and shampoo, must be in clear bottles with ingredients listed and be within a certain size range.

Inmates may also have the following items, but with restrictions placed by the prisons:

  • Essential medical prescriptions
  • Some money
  • A Bible or religious book
  • Wedding ring
  • A paper with emergency contact numbers and information
  • Dentures
  • Photographs

If you’re visiting someone in prison, you’ll need to check with the facility to see what’s allowed. Some allow certain types of food, toiletries, books, clothing, letters or pictures, and money.

Sneaking Items into Prison

Bringing non-allowable items into a prison is a serious offense for any party involved, especially for those who work or volunteer in the prison. If you want to send something to an inmate, it’s always best to call the prison first to see what rules it has in place.