According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, more than 100 cellphones and cellphone chargers, large bags of tobacco and numerous other contraband items, including shoes and shanks, were seized during the bust.
Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell received alert of the shakedown at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.
"We actually requested MDOC help with a jail search about six months," he told the Daily Corinthian. "Like other jails across the country, we have a contraband problem. It's a problem we fight everyday and is exactly why we requested help. But a surprise visit like this is what makes a good shakedown."
Cellphones hidden in the ceilings fell as MDOC officers searched the facility. Light fixtures were being used to charge the phones. Phones also were found on surprised inmates. One inmate tried to conceal a cellphone by lying on it, an MDOC officer noted.
Contraband also was found in the back of television sets, inside garbage cans, and in the desk of an employee.
MDOC also placed the facility on lockdown until they receive a corrective plan of action, which Caldwell said his staff has already begun working on.
During the lockdown, no visitation is allowed, inmates can't make phone calls or use the commissary. Inmates are also kept locked in their cells.
Caldwell added he appreciates the help MDOC provided on Wednesday and said a full facility shakedown is not something his staff can do alone.
"It's a large job. To shutdown the facility and do a full search takes a lot of manpower," he said. "I'm glad they were able to come in, get the job done and recover the contraband from the jail. It's something I wish they could do every few months."
Fighting contraband at the 240 inmate facility is a daily job added the sheriff.
"We do what we can with the amount of staff members we have. We search inmates at intake and search inmates cells regularly, but these inmates are constantly thinking of new ways to get contraband into the jail or how to coerce a jail employee into bringing something into the jail for them," said Caldwell.
Just this year Caldwell arrested and prosecuted two former jail employees for bringing contraband into his facility.
MDOC said the Alcorn County shakedown was the largest bust at a regional facility this year.
“These shakedowns are being done for the sake of public safety,” said Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall.
Hall stressed that the issue of cellphones in the hands of inmates is a public safety concern. She noted there have been numerous cases, not only in the state but also across the country, of cellphones being used to aid in criminal activity. She cited that earlier this month, a South Carolina maximum security prisoner caught in Texas reportedly used a smuggled cellphone in his escape.
They began doing unexpected visits in March after launching Operation Zero Tolerance on jail contraband.
Alcorn is the ninth of 15 regional facilities to be searched.