Drone smuggled weed into Mississippi prison. ‘Now it’s going to help us,’ officials say

Mississippi authorities have plans to repurpose a drone used to smuggle weed and other contraband into a correctional facility in Pearl.

Two men are now behind bars after Mississippi Department of Corrections officials say the drone carried two ounces of marijuana, a cell phone and cell phone chargers, headphones and cigarette lighters in the aircraft and tried dropping the items over the fence at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

Their delivery never made it, however, as the drone got caught in security nets over the jail’s razor-wire fences, according to a department news release.

John Ross, 33, and Joshua Corban, 18, are charged with conspiracy and attempting to sneak contraband into a prison, authorities said.

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“We’re bringing all of Mississippi Corrections into the world of 21st century crime-fighting technology and we’re doing it quickly,” MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain said in the news release. “They tried to use the drone to help their friends — now it’s going to help us.”

“We’re reprogramming their drone now to use at Parchman (Farm) so it’s working for the law instead of against it,” Cain added.

Investigators with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office nabbed the duo using technology that traced the drone’s flight path, data they then cross-referenced with a home address in Vicksburg where the drone had frequently been used.

“MDOC’s Corrections Investigation Division coupled that with security video recorded at Mississippi Department of Public Safety Criminal Information Center (CIC) that showed Ross and Corban launching the drone,” authorities said.

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Drug-smuggling drones have become a security issue at corrections facilities across the U.S. In documents obtained by USA Today in 2017, the U.S. Justice Department identified over a dozen attempts to smuggle illegal goods — including cell phones, drugs and porn — into state and federal prisons in recent years.

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“Traditionally some inmates would bribe the staff or visitors to bring drugs and other small items into jail illegally by hiding them in body cavities, etc.,” Donald Leach, a jail management consultant, told the newspaper. “But drones have opened up the possibility of transporting much bigger and much more lethal items like guns into the facilities.”

John Hunt, MDOC’s director of investigations, said this is the third drone the department has seized at a Mississippi prison in the last few years.

Authorities said Ross and Corban confessed to the crime and face prison time if convicted.

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