POLITICS

New Canadian jail looks at ways of keeping out drug drones flying overhead

02/26/2015 04:00 EST | Updated 04/27/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - One of Canada's newest jails is researching the use of detectors to prevent the invasion of drug-bearing drones that have plagued some North American prisons.

Tim Carroll, superintendent of the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, said staff are examining ways to prevent unmanned aerial vehicles from lowering contraband into the jail's airing yards in a rural area north of Truro.

"We're looking at both obtaining our own drones for ... perimeter checks and verifying surveillance in and around our correctional facility and, in addition to that, detecting drones which are not government operated and that may pose a threat to the facility," he said in an interview.

Incidents recorded in South Carolina and Quebec in the past two years prompted Carroll's interest as he worked on plans for the 100-cell jail, which opened Feb. 8.

"We want to take advantage of the modern technology out there. Drones are part of everyday life now. ... they're going to be impacting security," he said.

He added that readily available, higher-end drones are capable of video reconnaissance — another threat that has to be considered.

A drone detection company says it has received inquiries from provincial governments as incidents involving drones over jails become more prevalent.

Boris Defreville, chief of operations for French-based Orelia Inc., said his firm is one of a few competing in the new drone detection market.

Sensors made by the company, which cost about $3,000 each, lock onto the sound of whirring drone blades, while competitors' devices lock in on Wi-Fi frequencies, use radar or employ infrared cameras, he said.

Defreville said jails are taking a cautious approach to actually buying products.

"Right now everybody is trying to understand what is the best solution to detect drones," he said.

Andrew Preeper of Nova Scotia's Justice Department said there hasn't been a recorded incident of a drone entering prison airspace in the province.

Meanwhile, drone detectors are just part of an array of technology aimed at keeping drugs out of jails, said Carroll, who has asked for approval to buy a body scanner worth more than $200,000 to keep contraband out of the jail in Priestville.

Body scanners are widely used in U.S. jails to detect everything from knives to pill boxes hidden in body cavities or other body parts.

Carroll said smuggled drugs undermine rehabilitation programs, cause more violence and lead to prison searches that confine inmates to their cells.

"Most incidents in facilities across Canada can be linked back to the introduction ... of contraband," he said.

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