ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WIS) – Corrections officials say a device commonly known as a potato gun has been used to launch illegal items into a state prison.
Prisons come with two guarantees: People will try to get out, and they will try to get in things they’re not supposed to have.
That’s where the device enters the picture.
Call it a potato gun, potato cannon or a spudzooka.
The device can now also be called evidence in what the corrections department says was a plan to shoot contraband into the McCormick Correctional Institution.
“And they were simply using it to launch contraband like you would a spud,” says prisons spokesman Josh Gelinas.
Police in Anderson County have questioned several people in connection with the plot.
It was designed, corrections says, to launch drugs and cell phones in particular into McCormick, a maximum security prison surrounded by a double fencing system and electronic surveillance.
Videos and step-by-step instructions for making potato guns are easy to find online.
The guns are made from PVC pipe, fueled with everything from hairspray to propane, and sparked by barbecue grill igniters.
Some of the bigger guns can shoot whatever’s crammed down their barrels hundreds of yards.
Corrections says this discovery is an indicator that inmates and their friends are trying to find new ways around tougher security at prison entrances.
“All of our medium and maximum security institutions have x-ray machines and metal detectors. We’ve simply made it harder to get contraband in the front door. So naturally they’ve turned to throwing it over fences, tossing it over fences in footballs. Basketballs, tennis balls, racquetballs. In this case, a pretty large potato gun,” says Gelinas.
The department says the arrests also point out the need for higher staffing levels and new equipment to jam cell phone signals.
Corrections Director Jon Ozmint might have the spudzooka with him next month to help argue his case at the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.
Ozmint will be there November 21 for a demonstration of a cell phone jamming system.
Cell phone jammers are illegal under us law, even in prisons.
Ozmint says the technology is needed to prevent inmates from using smuggled phones to escape or commit more crimes.
But he’ll have to convince the FCC and maybe Congress that jamming cell phone signals should be allowed in this instance, for the sake of public safety.