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Hair dye kits, heroin and hacksaw blades among items delivered to prisons via drones

FILE -- In this Aug. 16, 2016, photo, a row of general population inmates walk in a line at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Fences can't keep drones out of prisons, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is still trying to figure out what will.

The CDCR began tracking drone deliveries of contraband in July 2017. In less than a year, there have been 45 incidents of "unauthorized drone activity," according to records obtained by Eyewitness News.

Of the 45, nine have been in prisons located in Kern County.

The items delivered by drones vary widely. In the last year, prison guards in Kern County have reported finding batteries, cameras, cellphones, marijuana, heroin, hair dye, security keys and hacksaw blades inside their fences that they believe were dropped from the sky. Drones or parts of drones have been recovered, as well.

Requests for photos of the aforementioned contraband were denied by the state, which said the photos are "currently being used as evidence in an investigation and therefore cannot be provided at this time."

The state formed the Unmanned Aerial Systems Unit in 2016 to study the problem. The unit is comprised of information technology professionals who recommend the state's prisons standardize drone reporting and establish drone awareness training for prison staff, according to Alexandra Powell, a public information officer for CDCR.

A pilot program was developed that will launch May 1 at five institutions throughout the state. The agency has not said which institutions were selected for the pilot program or how much is invested in the program.

A state spokesperson told Eyewitness News the UASU is "exploring technologies designed to detect or deter hostile drones deployed over CDCR institutions."


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