How To Stop the Flow of Drugs Into Prison

By · Friday, November 28th, 2008

Administrators in high-security prisons use a variety of security measures designed to stop the flow of contraband into prisons. Despite their efforts, drugs remain a problem in prison.

Drugs enter institutions through visiting rooms, through the mail, and through corrupt staff members. The smuggling of drugs into prisons is particularly problematic in secure prisons. Ironically, in minimum-security camps, where prisoners enjoy significantly higher levels of freedom and interaction with the broader community, drugs are less of a problem. Administrators ought to learn a lesson from that truism.

Drugs are not such a problem in minimum-security camps for a variety of reasons. The most obvious, of course, is that minimum-security camps confine mostly offenders who were convicted of white collar crime and other nonviolent prisoners who are nearing their release dates. The people in minimum-security camp have more hope than those in higher security prisons. Although administrators in higher security prisons cannot change the type of offenders who are locked inside the boundaries, they can use their enormous power to encourage more hope.

Inmates who live without hope are vulnerable to negative adjustment patterns. Many ceaselessly plot and scheme to build a power base inside the penitentiary. They feel totally alienated from the world beyond prison boundaries, or recognize that they will not return to society for years or decades to come. Recognizing that many prisoners rely upon drugs to numb themselves to the pains of confinement, many prisoners traffic in drugs as a short-sighted way of easing their time in prison. Those activities contribute to many problems inside the chaotic world of the penitentiary.

Although administrators must make appropriate use of security measures, another tool they should consider to stop the flow of drugs into prisons would be implementing a meaningful incentive program. Rather than simply relying upon the threat of punishment to discourage bad behavior, prisons should make use of incentive programs that encourage good behavior. Inmates should have opportunities to work toward meaningful privileges that would improve their quality of life inside.

Some examples of incentives that would drive inmate choices might include opportunities for inmates to enhance their ties to society. For example, they could offer access to e-mail programs, better visiting access, more telephone access. Administrators limit those programs. If they allowed prisoners opportunities to earn privileges like more food, preferred housing within the penitentiary, or access to movies, music, or books. Since administrators control the infrastructure, they could control inventives that would motivate desirable inmate adjustment patterns.

The threat of punishments and further sanctions extinguish hope and contribute to the oppressive atmosphere. Incentives, on the other hand, would open and encourage motivations to grow. That shift in management would help stop the flow of drugs into prison.

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One Response to “How To Stop the Flow of Drugs Into Prison”

  1. Anthony Stroma says:

    Dear Mr. Santos,
    In the course of taking Mr. Torres’ Correction class at CSULB and reading your book, Inside, I have become astonished and surprised to have learned about the high proliferation of drug use/abuse among federal prison inmates. It is shocking to know that the availability of drugs to prisoners is a prevalent “market” behind prison walls that not only fuels drug addiction habits, but also leads to indirect violence, like assaults and even death. However, this may not be all that surprising having learned that approximately 80% of prisoners in jails/prisons are there due to direct/indirect substance abuse.
    Since the presence of drugs in prison presents substantial and numerous problems, do you feel that the implementation of random drug testing would aid in the control and cut back of the flow of drugs in prisons? I fully understand that drug tests would not be a deterrent to most, if not all individuals incarcerated, but testing could be combined or joined with treatment programs for those who are deemed to have abuse problems. What is the benefit and likelihood of such an occurence? Could separate treatment confinements even be set up for those prisoners wanting to break their habit and become clean?
    This is off subject, but I am curious if you just sold/distributed cocaine or did you use as well (prior to being sentenced)? I know that drug traffickers and those who sell drugs do not necessarily use themselves while some do both, use and sell. But if its not too personal and I will understand if you are not obliged to answer but, if so, was it occasionally or most of the time? Also, if in fact you did use, did you use when you got into prison to possibly support any habits you may have had?
    Thank you for your time as I know it is limited and restricted. I look forward to your reply. God bless.

    – A. Stroma