Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Justice Department Report Decries Smuggling in Federal Prisons

Justice Department Report Decries
Smuggling in Federal Prisons

The U. S. Justice Department has issued a report decrying the ability of smugglers to get regular shipments of drugs even into the highest security federal prisons. The report blames visitors, mail, and prison employees for bringing contraband, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and other drugsinto the 102 federal prisons.

"Prison personnel are of particular concern because they tend to bring in larger amounts that spread to more" prisoners, said Justice Department Inspector General Glen A. Fine. Fine noted that "a few corrupt staff can do enormous damage to the safety and security of an institution."

Prison staff is allowed to bring personal items to work and are not subjected to random searches or drug testing. However, former Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer brushed aside the report's recommendation that staff be searched upon arrival. "Overall, staff morale would suffer, thereby creating unwarranted concerns in areas other than drug detection," said Sawyer.

From 1997 through 2001, an annual average of 3,080 BOP prisoners tested positive for drugs. This is 2% of the prisoners tested. However, the rate at high-security prisons was higher3%. 1,100 drug stashes were found in BOP prisons since 2000. Since 1997, 50 BOP prisoners suffered fatal drub overdoses. From 1997 through 2001, 34 BOP staff was arrested on drug charges and 93 were the subject of drug-related disciplinary actions.

Visitors have been detected passing drugs when hugging or kissing a prisoner. In one case, a visitor brought a burrito filled with balloons of heroin, substituted it for a prison vending machine burrito, and gave it to the prisoner. The report recommended increased pat searches of visitors, improved staff and camera monitoring, and restrictions on some prisoners' contact visits to reduce visitation smuggling.

Sawyer noted the importance of regular visitation to prisoners' ability to cope with prison life and maintain community and family ties essential to help released prisoners readjust to society. However, she agreed with some of the recommendations.

The report noted that the heavy volume of mail made manual inspection of each item impossible. It recommended the elimination of unsolicited mail, experimenting with improved drug detection technology, and improved staff training in drug detection.

The report also recommended increasing the number of prisoner drug rehabilitation programs and the staff assigned to them. This would reduce drug trafficking by reducing demand in the prisons. However, Sawyer noted that this would entail hiring an additional 200 employees and cost an additional $13.4 million not budgeted by Congress.

Source: Associated Press

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login