Drug Testing In Detention Facilities

The United States has roughly 1.5 million prisoners under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities during 2011, according to the newest report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than 330,000 were serving time for drug offenses, including nearly 95,000 doing federal time, which goes to show that substance abuse remains one of the top driving factors in America’s prison population.

And just because a drug offender is already behind bars doesn’t mean there’s no way for him/her to access banned substances. In Ohio, one of the regional directors of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said drugs are smuggled into jail in a variety of ways, such as visitors hiding drugs in their shoes or clothing so they can bring them to an inmate or concealing drugs in clumps of dirt and toss them into prison yards.

The disclosure comes after the annual drug testing performed by the department found that more Ohio inmates were using marijuana and other drugs of abuse.

Drug testing inmates have become so commonplace in the United States. The November-December 2012 issue of Corrections Forum discussed in great detail some of the methods used by drug courts and correctional facilities (among others) to screen inmates for drug use.  Although urine drug test is still considered a predominant method, saliva drug test, which is considered a relatively new technology, is starting to gain ground because of its convenience and ease-of-use. Serhat Pala, CEO of TestCountry, told the publication that while urine drug tests can detect up to about 10 drugs, saliva drug test is “catching up.” He said one of the primary advantages of saliva test is its ability to detect drug use in a short window, making it more suitable in situations where timeliness is key.

Many state and federal prisons now conduct random drug test  as part of their rehabilitation programs. Some drug and alcohol courts have also began supporting regular random drug testing to rehabilitate drug offenders instead of sending them to prison.

In Florida, inmates can be tested for drugs on a random or “for cause” basis as a way to prevent the introduction of drugs (and cell phones) into prisons.

In Alabama, inmate drug screening is performed to deter drug use, drug trafficking, and drug related infractions. Among the drugs tested include amphetamines, ecstasy, meth, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and methadone.

In Pennsylvania, a zero-tolerance policy in prisons has been instituted in 1995. The Washington Times reports that the state Corrections Department began using canine detection teams, installed X-ray machines in prison mailrooms, stepped up drug testing, expanded search policies affecting prisoners and staff, and punished violators with loss of visiting privileges.


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