- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

Drugs smuggled into federal correctional institutions each year by visitors, prison staff and through the mail have created serious health and management problems, according to a report released yesterday.
A 123-page report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General said officials at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons failed to adequately search visitors, lacked cameras, monitors and staff to properly supervise inmate-visiting sessions, and had taken "insufficient measures" to prevent drug smuggling by staff personnel.
Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said interdiction activities common in state prison facilities such as random drug searches and tests of staff were not used by federal prison officials. He also said an insufficient number of federal inmates received treatment to reduce their demand for drugs.
"The vast majority of BOP employees have high integrity, but a few corrupt staff can do enormous damage to the safety and security of an institution," Mr. Fine said. "When staff smuggle drugs, the amounts are often large and they reach more inmates.
"We believe the BOP needs to focus additional drug-interdiction efforts on its staff in order to reduce drugs in federal prisons."
BOP spokesman Dan Dunne said prison officials "recognize the harm drugs can do" and the agency will "closely review" recommendations in the report to determine how they can be used to ensure the safety of both inmates and staff, and prevent the introduction of drugs into the federal prison system.
Mr. Dunne noted, however, that testing this year of 80,000 federal inmates showed a positive return for drug usage of 0.9 percent, compared with a 3.2 average among 43 other correctional systems.
"Some of the recommendations will be very costly to implement, but we will do the best we can with the resources available," he said.
The IG's report noted that between 1997 and 2001, inmates testing positive for drugs averaged 1.94 percent, but said statistics varied widely among federal facilities. It said the high-security federal penitentiary in Beaumont, Texas, posted a positive inmate drug test rate of 7.84 percent.
In addition, the report said 50 federal inmates died from drug overdoses since 1997 and more than 1,100 drug finds were reported in the federal prison system since 2000.
Mr. Fine said federal prison officials imposed no restrictions on the personal property staff could bring into its institutions, did not search staff or their property when they entered for duty, and did not conduct random staff drug testing.
He said investigators observed staff bringing in duffel bags, briefcases, satchels, and large and small coolers, and that prison managers, intelligence officials and correctional officers said they doubted the effectiveness of efforts to eliminate drugs since they had no control over the property staff could bring inside.
Mr. Fine said random drug tests of the prison staff were not conducted despite a federal court case in 1993 that permitted such testing and despite the existence of a written BOP policy requiring drug testing.
The report said an insufficient number of inmates received drug treatment, partly because the BOP underestimated and inadequately tracked inmates' treatment needs. It said federal prison officials estimated that 34 percent of all inmates needed drug treatment, but the figure was outdated and underrepresented the number of inmates in need of treatment.
The report recommended the implementation of "pat" searches of visitors; additional cameras, monitors, ion spectrometry technology to detect drugs, or other emerging drug-detection technology; and the implementation of policies to restrict the size and content of property staff could bring into the institutions.
It also recommended random drug testing for staff and additional nonresidential treatment programs for inmates in the general population.
"We believe the BOP should make the changes, given the importance of reducing the availability of drugs in federal prisons," Mr. Fine said. "The BOP's failure to implement additional interdiction activities has resulted in significant gaps in the BOP's drug-interdiction efforts."

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