Drugs, weapons and mounds of contraband are found in the Clark County Jail every day. It's a problem administrators say seems to be getting worse especially when it comes to a new drug called suboxone.
The Clark County Jail is not alone in this issue, it's a problem jails and prisons across the country face all the time. But, administrators agreed to give FOX 12 a rare look at what's going on behind bars, to show us what they're dealing with.
Dried paint on the walls of the Clark County Jail never seemed like a weapon.
"We put the wrong paint on the wall, they showed us that very quickly," said Jail Commander Kim Beltran. Jail commander Kim Beltran will never think that again.
"They peeled it off in big sheets and made paintballs and they were throwing them at staff," she added.
Fortunately, no one was hurt and needless to say, they changed the paint.
"They're kind of MacGyver's, but usually in all the wrong ways," said Beltran.
Beltran thinks of things like this whenever she makes a decision at the jail. Before they bought new beds, she asked an inmate to destroy one as a test.
"He was able to pull strings out of mattress and turned it into saw and in less than five minutes he sawed off the corner of the bed," said Beltran. "They're smart people and they're in here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so they make contraband."
Contraband is defined as anything prohibited by law from being imported or exported. To the jail it also means anything that's altered from its original state.
Beltran says contraband is confiscated on a daily basis, so much so, they don't keep a running tally.
Some of what the inmates create is hard not to be amazed with; sophisticated Origami swans, intricate soap carvings and basketball hoops made out of mop threads. But, it's contraband none the less, which means it's gotta go.
"They make tattoo kits, they take the motor out of the razor we give them," said Beltran. "We've had weapons in the jail, fortunately no one was hurt, but threats were made. Simple things like a pencil, or pen from an attorney left behind during interview can be turned into weapons."
What's not made from the inside is smuggled in from the outside. Most often, internally.
"We've had an entire deodorant container full of drugs and tobacco smuggled in a man's rectum. We've had black tar heroin, crystal meth, you name it."
Suboxone is the latest drug making its way into the jail. It's meant to help with withdrawals, but inmates also use it to get high.
"It comes in the mail all the time. They're like little strips they can actually melt down and disintegrate into crayons and you just see the inmates eating the paper and you know they've got some drugs in, because most people don't eat their mail when they're done with it," said Beltran.
Beltran says there's an open investigation into the family of one inmate for trying to smuggle in the drug, though she can't talk about it.
"It's actively open now, so I can't speak to it," said Beltran. Beltran says guards do their best to watch over inmates, but the jail's old design works against them. "The main jail is indirect supervision, so we're not in there with them, we're in a tower removed from them. Unfortunately, with that they get away with some things," said Beltran.
Beltran tells FOX 12 jail staff is hoping the county approves a new TSA like body scanner in the budget this year, to help them catch people trying to sneak in contraband internally.
The Cowlitz County Jail tells FOX 12 they are also hoping the county approves a full body scanner in their budget as well.
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