HENNING, Tenn. – Tennessee’s largest prison was the subject of a multi-agency search that involved about 300 officers who searched the facility for cell phones, drugs and other contraband.
The search at West Tennessee State Penitentiary, in Henning, dubbed “Operation Clean Sweep,” included officials from the state’s Department of Correction, the Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Safety. The Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Metro Nashville, Martin and Jackson police departments assisted with a total of 34 drug dog teams.
After six months of planning, the search was executed in November when participants assembled near the prison at the National Guard Armory in Covington before dawn. The teams entered the prison without warning and conducted a saturation search of the entire facility. Inmates and employees were frisked to ensure no contraband was brought into the facility.
DOC spokeswoman Amanda Sluss says a list of all confiscated items has not been compiled, but cell phones, cell phone chargers, drugs and weapons were found during the search. Drug dogs picked up traces of drugs on some vehicles at the facility, but no employees were arrested or cited for misconduct, according to Sluss.
In an effort to prevent more illegal drug use in its prisons, DOC has introduced six drug dog teams that will be stationed at prisons throughout the state.
“The Department of Correction is extremely fortunate to now have a specialized canine program that will be used statewide for the specific purpose of helping to combat illegal drugs from being smuggled behind our prison walls,” says commissioner George Little. “These drug dogs will act as a unique tool for prison security to use in the search for contraband like marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.”
The drug dog program will be funded with a $481,000 appropriation that was awarded by the state Legislature. The department will receive another $288,000 annually to continue the program. The drug dog teams have been split with two teams per region in the state.