Drugs in and out of California Prisons

Opinions in blog posts are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of 1.800.NoCuffs and The Kavinoky Law Firm.

More than 100,000 Californians are currently in California prisons. Nearly 10,000 alone are located in the Los Angeles central jail system, the country’s largest prison.

Many of those serving sentences are doing so for drug crimes and some of them for minor drug offenses. Before Prop 47 passed, even more people served time for small-time drug crimes. Prop 47 serves to reduce a number of minor drug from felonies to misdemeanors. Unfortunately, according to recent statistics, drugs don’t just put people in prison. Drugs also release inmates from prison through drug overdoses and deaths.

California Prisons: Inmates & Drug Overdoses

Over 150 California prison inmates died of drug overdoses in the past ten years. That number is three times the national average. Thus, it requires the discussion regarding the prevalence of drugs in the state’s prisons. Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told state legislators that illegal drugs are rampant in the prisons. The Department is spending $8 million on anti-drug activity. This funding includes drug-detecting scanners, drug-sniffing dogs, and strip searches of any suspicious visitors.

So far, the drug-detecting efforts reveal very few results. Since December of last year, more than 6,000 scans of visitors and prison employees returned a sum total of zero drugs. Rather, it has prompted civil rights advocates to speak out against the new policies. False alarms by drug-sniffing dogs, and the drug scanners may lead to strip searches that go too far.

Lawmakers have added language to the current California budget plan to end strip searches, and re-evaluate the anti-drug efforts. According to Democratic Senator, Loni Hancock, “It’s a humiliating process, can be easily used to humiliate and demean people, and was only for visitors, often women.”

The decision to use dogs to search humans rather than empty rooms prompted the former canine program coordinator to resign. Wayne Conrad was critical of the expenses related sending the dogs for training in Pennsylvania, and the use of less reliable breeds. Conrad was concerned about the likelihood of false positives. “The dogs are going to start alerting on people whose kids are smoking dope,” he said. “The next thing that’s going to come is the lawsuits.”

Alternative Plans

Jeffrey Beard is seeking alternatives to strip searches. He comes to the California prison system after more than 10 years in Pennsylvania corrections department. Pennsylvania has a rate of one drug or alcohol related death per 100,000 inmates, while California’s rate is eight times as high. Beard wants to send a message to people not to smuggle drugs into prisons. “If we don’t do this, we’re going to have people keep dying, we’re going to have continued violence in the prisons,” said Beard.

In 2013, 24 prisoners died from drug overdoses. Prisoners can easily spread disease through the use of intravenous needles. The same year, 69 inmates died from hepatitis C, largely spread as a result of IV drug use. Other states with large prison populations saw a similar rate of 1 death per 100,000 prisoners, including Texas, Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia. On the other hand, Maryland had by far the worst death rate with 17 deaths per 100,000 inmates.

Only about 5% of visitors and employees receive a drug scan using  ion scanners. Ion scanners are the same devices in airport screening for bomb detection. In Pennsylvania 20% of employees and 68% of visitors go through scanners before they enter the prison.

Stay Up to Date

The Kavinoky Law Firm employs the best and brightest so that we can fight for your freedom. Should you find yourself in need of a crime attorney or DUI attorney, call us first. Keep yourself out of the California prisons. Call anytime 24/7 – we don’t sleep – so you can. 1.800.NO.CUFFS is the number you need to remember.

John Devendorf
John Devendorf
John Devendorf is a California barred attorney and graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law. He writes on a range of legal topics including criminal law, immigration, and legal marketing. While he is not a member of The Kavinoky Law Firm, we share his legal insights on topics important to our clients.