CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered the story behind a gun found hidden in a football inside a Northeast Ohio prison.

The case exposes a growing problem for jail guards and police. It falls in line with a trend in prisons and jails.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is now investigating a mystery at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.

A report shows, that last month, someone put a gun and two containers of pepper spray inside a football and threw the ball over a prison fence.

That facility is privately operated, but it houses state and federal inmates.

The prison football case comes as no surprise to the union for corrections officers at state prisons.

Christopher Mabe leads the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. He said, “It’s a very difficult job. We’re consistently understaffed.”

He added, “It’s hard to keep up with all these things with the staffing levels that we’re dealing with. We have challenges far beyond what we ever would have thought possible ten years ago.”

Seems someone always tries something new to get weapons, drugs and more into prisons and jails. Often, now that gets done with drones.

In fact, last year, we showed you a drone that crashed into a home near a prison while carrying drugs and phones.

Euclid Police Chief Scott Meyer said, “Folks that are in criminal behaviors are getting more and more creative.”

The chief remembers someone used a drone three years ago to drop marijuana and phones into the jail in Euclid. The Chief sees a connection between what’s happening in the lockups and on the streets.
He added, “That’s right, I think people are just getting more bold and brazen, and it’s leading to more violence, too.”

Back to the case with a football used to smuggle a gun into a prison.

State troopers are still investigating.  We noticed a full page of their report is completely blacked out.
Meantime, this case puts a spotlight on a trend that the statewide union leader sees behind bars.
He said, “We weren’t actually having a problem with people escaping. We were having a problem with things coming into the prisons.”

CoreCivic, the company that operates the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, issued a statement.

It said, “On the morning of July 27, 2022, there was an introduction of contraband at our Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, in Youngstown, OH, however, this package was quickly discovered by facility staff who were patrolling the perimeter fence line.  At no time were any inmates near the package. Facility staff recovered the package and an initial inspection of its contents revealed a weapon. We immediately notified our government partners, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the U.S. Marshals Service. We also notified local law enforcement and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). 

The introduction of contraband in correctional settings is a nationwide challenge that requires close and constant collaboration to prevent. CoreCivic has a zero-tolerance policy for the introduction of contraband into our facilities. We work as one team with local, state and federal law enforcement on investigative and intervention efforts to remove, detect, and prevent the introduction of contraband at any of our facilities.”


Oddly, the Highway Patrol report also shows, that a trooper interviewed a corrections officer who said inmates asked, “if the lockdown was for a gun.” And, she pointed out, she did know why they would ask that. She was unaware of a gun being brought into the facility.