- Faith & Family
“Shake down squad! The shake down squad comin’,” an inmate yelled frantically from the dark bed areas in the wee hours of the morning. The warning came just before lights were turned on, awakening all 68 inmates at an unusual time of the morning. Ten officers and a captain appeared at the front entrance of the building, moving quickly towards the bed area. All of the officers were wearing rubber gloves and ordering every inmate to hurry out of their bunks and immediately report to the day room. The shake down squad was about to turn the place upside down. No one had time to conceal nor dispose of anything they may not have wanted to be discovered during the surprise dormitory searching procedure that was about to take place. After being herded into one area, each inmate was thoroughly strip-searched before being ordered to have a seat.
Just as we were beginning to get comfortable, the K-9 unit strolled into the building — two dog handlers with two Labrador retrievers. Trained to alert officers to the presence of narcotics and cell phone devices, the two four-legged animals were unleashed —set free to roam the place in hopes of sniffing out hidden treasures. False electronic signals could be heard coming from a hand metal detector being waved across mattresses and pillows as the officer holding the device went from one bunk to another in search of hidden metal objects, ranging from homemade knives to cell phones. The rest of the shake down squad was at work fingering through each inmate’s personal property, confiscating relatively small items considered contraband while remaining in constant search of more serious tangibles such as weapons, drugs, buck (prison-brewed alcohol) or anything else in the building that could be deemed a threat to security. In the end nothing was found.
Surprise searches like this can occur any given time and sometimes authorities make major discoveries. But for inmates it’s extremely frustrating, especially after their property and immediate area ransacked and then forced to clean up the mess. Officers say they’re just doing their jobs — inmates have other opinions.
By Arthur Lee Hall, Jr.