WILCOX COUNTY, Ga. -- Nearly 200 Department of Corrections officers flooded the gates of Wilcox State Prison Wednesday morning, marking the beginning of an unannounced raid.
The DOC's special operations team performs shakedowns at each of the state's 31 prison facilities, searching each cell for weapons and other contraband, including cell phones.
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PHOTO GALLERY: Inside Wilcox State Prison
Even prison warden Robert Toole was caught off guard, notified only ten minutes before the group's arrival.
"I welcome it," Toole said. "Anytime I can have additional staff. These guys are highly trained, highly motivated."
Each of the prison's 1,862 inmates were strip searched, then removed from their cells and placed in a holding room. Officers then entered two at a time, sometimes accompanied by a member of the K-9 unit.
By the end of the shakedown, officers had confiscated 32 cell phones, 21 weapons and small amounts of marijuana and meth. Most of the items were well hidden: behind walls, in ceilings or inside of a broken sink.
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Officers said some contraband, like homemade alcohol, is relatively harmless. They said their biggest focus is finding and removing cell phones. Toole said they are just as dangerous as weapons.
"Once that one cell phone makes it in, it just opens up the flood gates," he said. "It allows inmates to communicate, to carry on criminal activity outside the walls. It allows inmates to intimidate possible witnesses."
This is the first surprise shakedown for Wilcox State Prison. The visits are always unannounced to prevent inmates, and in some cases, guards, from getting rid of illegal items.
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