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Jail shakedown: searching for contraband

Posted at 4:59 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 20:12:03-05
Corrections Officers at the Pima County Jail never know what they're going to find in an inmates cell and even if an item looks innocent, it could harm someone. 
That's why cell searches are an important part of the job. Fifteen recruits currently in the Corrections Officer academy got to experience that for the first time Wednesday, a little over a week before their graduation. 
The real-life shakedown was the first time the recruits did anything more than tour the facility. They have done simulated searches before, but nothing compares to the real thing. 
And Corrections Officers will tell you, it's amazing what an inmate can do with the smallest of contraband items. Even a packet of jelly. 
"They hang on to it and could potentially make hooch which is an alcohol," said Sgt. Paolo Paravano with Pima County Corrections. 
The recruits conduct a systematic cell-by-cell search, looking in every hiding place imaginable to find illegal items. 
"My partner, he found underneath a bunk, he found two screws with a staple and a magnet put together presumably to fix eyeglasses," said Corrections Officer Recruit Jacob Abrahams. 
Paravano says inmates in the housing unit where recruits conducted the search have been charged with crimes like armed robbery and even attempted murder. 
"This is real," he said. "They get to come up here, they get to deal with inmates, speak to the inmates."
Having recruits search the cells gives them their first taste of what the job will be like and how to handle the high-stress environment. 
"If you're working and you're confident in what you're doing and you portray that to the inmates, they will trust you," said Paravano. "Because your primary function as a CO in this facility is safety of the inmates and safety of your fellow officers." 
The Pima County Sheriff's Department is currently accepting applications for Corrections Officers. Paravano says they are looking for candidates interested in a law enforcement career and that becoming a Corrections Officer is often a stepping stone to becoming a deputy. If you'd like to apply, click here.