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Saudi prison officials report ‘bizarre’ episodes of smuggling

The majority of the items were to enable the inmates to commit suicide, or attack inmates and guards

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During a recent visit to Riyadh’s Al-Hayer Prison, a reporter was shown over 70 dangerous items that visitors had smuggled into the prison for inmates.

The majority of the items were to enable the inmates to commit suicide, or attack inmates and prison guards.

The items were smuggled in by people who had come to the prison to visit relatives, Al-Jazirah newspaper reported.

According to prison officials, women often conceal these items in sensitive parts of their bodies to avoid being caught.

They said the items are normally found at the end of visits when inmates are frisked before being allowed into the prison wards.

The prison authorities also showed the reporter some of the knives and sharp instruments that prisoners had manufactured themselves to attack guards and fellow inmates.

During 2011 and 2012, about 70 prison guards were attacked by inmates at the prison.

Guards said prisoners often use whatever they can get hold of to make primitive weapons.

Visitors have been known to conceal sharp items such as scissors, cutters, pens and razor blades in shoes and will come wearing the same shoes as the person they are visiting. These shoes are then quietly exchanged during visits.

Prisoners have also been known to inflict self-harm using sharp blades. Some of the smuggled items include drugs that the prisoners may consume to commit suicide.

Some prisoners who are detained for terrorism often receive letters, documents and news clippings about their fellow terrorists.

These documents are reduced to extremely small sizes using the zoom function on photocopy machines to make them discreet.

As a result, the prison operates a stringent inspection regime for visitors, especially female visitors who are often caught smuggling various items inside.

Inmates are known to use plastic bread bags and laundry bags to make ropes and attack guards or commit suicide. Some of the inmates are also known to tamper with air-conditioning units to salvage parts, which are used to make sharp weapons.

Cutters have also been known to be made from coffee and tea thermoses. The manufacturing of dangerous and sharp tools does not stop here.

Prisoners have been found to make tools from newspapers, which are then used to attack guards.

Toothbrushes are turned into knives and used teabags are used to start fires. As a result, guards are required to be constantly vigilant.

Prison officials said prisoners are monitored via CCTV cameras. Anything suspicious is dealt with by guards who restrain prisoners to prevent them from harming themselves and others.

The officials, however, insist that those causing trouble are a minority and that the majority of prisoners disapprove of what these small number of inmates do.

The story was originally posted on the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 5, 2014.