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Drone sighting at prison cause for concern

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News/File Photo)

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DRAPER — The Utah State Department of Corrections is concerned about prison security after a possible drone sighting was reported at the Utah State Prison July 15.

A Department of Corrections employee reportedly saw what looked like a drone flying over a recreation yard at the prison that morning, and all recreation yards were subsequently closed for about 15 minutes, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Adams.

Officers on site searched all the recreation yards and the surrounding areas for the alleged drone or anything it may have dropped, but did not find anything.

"Like Department of Corrections across the country, we are concerned about the increased use of drones and the implications they pose for our security," Adams said. "We are following and are engaged in those discussions about any possible means of preventing interference with operations from drones, and, you know, it's a developing area of discussion here and elsewhere in the nation."

Security staff is aware of the possible drone report and are vigilantly watching for drones. Drones have been used in other places to introduce contraband into prisons, Adams said.

She added it is a crime to introduce contraband into prisons whether it's by a drone or another method, and those who do could face misdemeanor or felony charges.

Likewise, any attempt to have a drone fly into the prison area to pick up a note or anything else from an inmate is also illegal. Adams said they control everything that goes in and out of the prison.

We take it seriously if we get a report ... of what appears to be a drone. We're going to take that very seriously and act accordingly.

–Brooke Adams, Utah State Department of Corrections spokeswoman

"We take it seriously if we get a report ... of what appears to be a drone," Adams said. "We're going to take that very seriously and act accordingly."

In light of the possible drone sighting, administrators were discussing ways to prevent any possible drones from interfering with prison operations in the future, she said.

Adams asked anyone who works at nearby businesses or passersby who see what could be a drone to alert them so they can investigate it and prevent security breach.

According to the Associated Press, a drone released a package of heroin, tobacco and marijuana in an Ohio prison yard July 29 as inmates were outside.

The drugs were reportedly meant for an inmate who was in the north recreation yard, and it was "thrown over a fence into the south recreation yard," according to AP.

There have been other incidences of drones breaching security at the Ohio prison, a spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, JoEllen Smith, told the Mansfield News Journal.

Smith said the agency is trying to better detect drones and boost awareness.

Prison administrators aren't the only ones worried about the increased popularity of drones. Wildfire officials in several states have issued warnings to the public to keep drones out of wildfires because they interfere with planes trying to make water and retardant drops.

Contributing: Mary Richards, Pat Reavy

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