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New law makes dropping contraband into prisons from drones a felony

Sarah Mueller
DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis speaks at bill signing.

A new law makes bringing contraband into Delaware prisons using unmanned aircraft a felony.

Gov. John Carney signed legislation at Vaughn Correctional Center Thursday that increases the penalties for anyone trying to use a drone to drop contraband into any of the state’s prisons.

Vaughn correctional officers saw unmanned aircraft flying over the prison last November, but wasn’t able to connect any contraband to them.

Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said until now there was basically no penalty for inmates using drones to bring in illicit items.

“We cannot play checkers while inmates are playing chess," she said. "This is new law is our checkmate as least as it relates to dropping contraband from drones over our prisons.”

DeMatteis said there’s been incidents in other states where drones have dropped wire cutters, phones, drugs and guns. She said the legislation sends a clear signal not to attempt that in Delaware.

“We send the message out now, don’t even think about doing that," she said. "We’ll detect it, we’ll find you and we’ll prosecute and you’ll spend time in jail for doing it.”

Under the new law, someone convicted of using a drone to drop contraband into a state prison could face three years in jail.

DeMatteis said they have the technology to identify incoming drones and track down who is flying them, but she wouldn’t discuss specifics.

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