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Inmate contraband: homemade nunchucks, "Jail Julep" & smoking the Bible

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MCMINN COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - Several Bibles have been confiscated from the McMinn County Jail after inmates have used them to roll up and smoke the New Testament a few too many times. Others have tried using The Book to attempt smuggling contraband into the facility.

"Unfortunately, as you can see, Bibles get vandalized," said McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy, holding a Bible several pages ripped out.

"That is a favorite way if they can sneak some tobacco in," Guy said, showing a plastic baggie of inmates' homemade cigarette butts rolled in Scripture. "They tear the pages out of the Bibles and smoke the pages."

With over 300 inmates in the facility, Guy said there's a lot of creativity behind bars. But a lot of it can translate to contraband. While some of what's snuck into the jail can be harmless, other items can lead to more serious problems -- like smuggled drugs, homemade alcohol and weapons.

"It's a constant battle to collect all this stuff," he said.

Channel 3 got a look at some of what's been confiscated there on Friday: weapons ranging from a pointed-tip jail spork to homemade nunchucks and plastic-wrapped "brass knuckles", down to dice made out of molded toilet paper, drugs taped inside of letters and tattoo guns made out of toothbrushes.

"There's a lot of ingenuity back there," Guy said.

Over the past couple of years, the jail has enacted strict policies to cut down on contraband. Although it costs more, everything is now provided for inmates. In 2015, the only mail accepted into the facility will be postcards.

"We've just gone to not accepting literally anything," said Guy.

Even some meals served at the have been repurposed -- to pipes or homemade alcohol known as "Jail Julep." Inmates who find a way to steal sugar will pocket fruit from their meals and let it ferment inside of their cells.

"No facility is 100 percent secure, unfortunately," the Sheriff said.

He explained how some people will drop off items on the jail property. Other inmates partner with work release inmates to smuggle things in. Other times, people will arrange drops out in public where litter crews are working.

Visitors have tried leaving hollowed-out hair brushes and Bibles that act as weapon cases or rolling papers for a quick fix.

"I don't want to have to answer to The Lord one day for keeping his Word out of people's hands," Guy said. "But unfortunately, we have to limit its use when people just want to go back there and literally tear it up and smoke its pages."

Inmates still have access to Bibles inside the jail. They are provided through the jail's ministry program. Anyone who gets caught vandalizing a Bible or using it for the wrong reasons will then lose those privileges.

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