Drones continue to cause security issues for prisons as they are increasingly being used to smuggle contraband. As incidents continue to rise, more states are seeking to thwart drug smuggling drones and deal with the issue through laws. If states can make it illegal to fly drones over prisons, it gives law enforcement authority to apprehend and cite those violating the law.
Missouri is one of the latest states to file a bill that would tackle the problem of drones flying over prisons. Missouri lawmakers want to create new ‘no-fly zones’ around prisons. Karen Pojmann, the Communications Director for the Missouri Department of Corrections spoke about the number of drone incidents happening near state prisons and said that, “since September 2016 we’ve had 11 reports of drone incidents at our facilities, and we have 21 facilities throughout the state,” Pojmann confirmed that “two of those instances occurred in Fall of 2018 at the Southeast Correctional Center.
Missouri HB 324 would make it illegal for drone pilots to fly an unmanned aircraft near any correctional center, private jail, county jail, municipal jail or mental health hospital.
Pojmann says their main concerns are that drones can be used to airdrop illegal drugs or weapons on prison property or to assist with an escape plan. The proposed law also requires each prison facility to post 11" by 14" signs about the new offense and the provisions. HB 324 has moved to the Senate for further deliberation.
If the law passes anyone caught flying a drone near prisons would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and possibly other felony charges depending on the pilot's illegal intentions.
Kentucky is another state look to curb drones flying around prisons. Deputy Commissioner KY Department of Corrections Randy White said, "currently in Kentucky, there are no laws that prevent law enforcement to enforce the preventing of flying drones over state prisons.”
Prison officials worry about drones dropping contraband such as drugs and weapons into the hands of prisoners, putting the whole facility at risk. Kentucky DOC has installed drone detections systems at prisons, but without a law to punish those who try to use drones to smuggle contraband into the prison, law enforcement cannot prosecute the lawbreakers.
Kentucky Senate Bill 157 would make it a criminal act to fly a drone over a prison without prior authorization. The bill defines a prison as a “key infrastructure asset”, and makes violations a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense, and a Class A misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense.
Without detection, security would be blind to incoming rogue drones while without procedures and laws officials cannot act and charge the bad guys. Drone detection, security procedures, and state laws are all needed to prevent drones from putting prisons at risk.