Jan. 14, 2013
How do so many illegal drugs get smuggled into prisons all over the United States? The author spent 20 years in various Florida prisons and tells how.
There is a drug epidemic inside America’s corrections system.
While serving 20 years in Florida’s prison system from 1992 to 2012 for an armed robbery, I saw every drug imaginable. Although I rehabilitated myself and quit using drugs altogether in the 1990s, that’s not the case for many prisoners. At least 60 percent of the estimated 20,000 prisoners I met inside frequently used drugs. After serving time in 18 different Florida prisons, never once did I witness an institution free of narcotics. Moreover, I met hundreds of men on transfer from other state prisons, and most said that the prisons from which they had come had more drugs than Florida’s institutions.
While doing research for my book, Facing the U.S. Prison Problem 2.3 Million Strong, I unearthed a number of disturbing statistics related to drug addiction of U.S. prisoners. These stats have supported my own observations in Florida. Experts in one study found that 50 to 60 percent of prisoners had drug addictions severe enough to warrant intensive drug treatment. In addition, according to the Department of Justice, a study conducted in 2004 showed that 17 percent of all state prisoners and 19 percent of all federal prisoners admitted to committing their crimes to buy drugs. Of these drug-related offenses, 9.8 percent committed by state prisoners were violent crimes. In 2007, 3.8 percent of the 14,038 homicides were known to be narcotics-related. That’s equal to 533 victims of drug-related murder.
After considering these statistics, I would say that having so many prisons in the U.S. with a dynamic drug culture is a serious problem. What I wonder is just how many addicted prisoners today will commit a new murder of some unsuspecting victim tomorrow. It will occur. And it will occur partly because the system fails to adequately address the drug problem when officials have addicts inside prison. Something to think about when the question of funding prison drug programs invariably arises for public debate.