Last updated: November 27, 2023
An inmate with connections on the “outside” can set up a pretty good business for themselves while they’re incarcerated. Prisoners can obtain virtually anything if they’re able to come up with the cash. Yes, the black market is thriving within our nation’s prison system and drug dealers are a part of that culture.
Officials in Pennsylvania charged an inmate with possession just last week after a corrections officer found crack cocaine and a pipe in her cell. Earlier this year, two prisoners in California got busted setting up out-of-state drug deals—from their cells. Turns out they’re both affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood—dozens of others were arrested as part of a sting operation targeting members of the Fresnecks, Aryan Brotherhood, and the Mexican Mafia.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise because drugs and cartels go hand-in-hand. However, the pandemic shed some light on drug trafficking within our prisons that many people do find shocking.
Where are they coming from?
Illicit drugs can be smuggled into the prison system by visitors, of course, despite the fact that the drug dogs are out in full force on visitation days. Dogs have an extremely acute sense of smell, but it is possible to disguise the odor emitting from some drugs. Some will actually take the risk of being found out in order to appease their spouse or loved one.
Drugs can be smuggled to someone through the prison mail system too but it’s getting harder to accomplish. Still, if someone hits on a method that works, you can bet the word gets out about it. However, if a growing number of prisoners suddenly begin to receive the same item in the mail—such as a box of markers, for instance, it’s a head’s up for prison staff to take a harder look. In this instance, cigarettes or drugs can be placed inside the markers if you remove the ink cartridges.
As is the case throughout the nation, the state of Texas didn’t allow its prisoners to have visitors for an extended period after the pandemic struck. The reason was due to a fear that the virus would spread through prisons like wildfire. It didn’t, of course, but there was a rise in the number of prisoners being caught with illicit drugs. That was baffling because prisoners’ families and friends had long been blamed for the constant flow of drugs into the institutions.
An investigation conducted by The Texas Tribune and The Marshall Project ensued and after speaking to people who lived or worked in Texas prisons, it was discovered that drugs were most often brought into the prisons by “low-paid employees in understaffed facilities.”
Of course, drugs continue to pour into our nation’s prisons at an alarming rate. The most commonly found drugs are heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, and new psychoactive substances (NPS). The problem exists worldwide, in fact, in Wales and England, one-third of prisoners claim it’s easier to get drugs in prison than on the street. Moreover, many here in the States make the same claim.
With the ever-increasing sophistication of technology, drug traffickers are finding new ways to deliver the goods. Believe it or not, drones are becoming a popular delivery method. They fly “under the radar” so to speak and are in and out before anyone is the wiser.
Drones deliver other contraband too—cell phones, for instance. They probably get used in coordinating the drug deals…
Visitors who bring in illicit drugs use a variety of methods. Babies can be the “carrier” as they aren’t searched. Drugs wrapped in plastic or stored in zip lock bags can be hidden in the baby’s diaper. A “sloppy kiss” is the term used for someone who is passing drugs to someone from their mouth. And, of course, there are those who smuggle drugs in by carrying them in body orifices.
Sometimes, small packages of drugs are tossed over the prison wall into the yard while the prisoners are outside getting some fresh air and exercise. The drop spot and delivery time would have been previously determined.
Drugs in the system
Illicit drug use within our prisons is a severe threat to both prisoners and staff. Studies show a link between drug use and criminal behavior.
Drug trafficking generates a hierarchy within the prison walls. Inmates who are more influential can coerce weaker inmates to smuggle or deal drugs for them. Moreover, it’s well documented that violence and drug use continue increasing within the prison system. In addition to being a health concern, drugs are linked to assaults, blackmail, and violence. Both prisoners and employees are negatively affected by these issues. Drug dealers in the prison system must be dealt with severely to set the standard.
Drug use won’t be tolerated.
How to flush them out
Drug dealers are never going to stop trying to come up with ways to “beat the system.” So, prison officials will keep on their toes to do their best to keep the situation under control. More guard towers could be the answer to the drones. In fact, software developers are working to create special technology to detect drones. The end goal is to be able to program drones not to fly over certain places.
Prison drug dogs will continue to help locate drugs hidden within the prison or on a visitor’s person. Active dogs go off-leash to search buildings, hallways, and perimeters. Passive dogs are kept on a leash and used to search visitors and prisoners alike.
Not giving prisoners as much free time is another way to combat the drug problem. And, without access to mobile phones, it’s a lot harder to coordinate drops.
Continued vigilance is the key to combatting the drug problem found within the United States prison system. Drug testing the prisoners suspected of impairment is another important aspect of taking charge of the situation.
Illicit drug use in America is raging out of control. Drug dealers aren’t giving up. Neither will we. We can’t quit fighting. We won’t quit fighting.