A jailer in Bowling Green, KY, believes the county’s purchase of a narcotics analyzer will help keep dangerous drugs out of the jail. According to a local news article, the jailer said the device can be used to scan papers, mail and other items to detect attempts to bring drugs into the jail.
The article quoted the deputy director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Task Force who believes the instrument can “save officers’ lives, especially in situations where they might be exposed to the potent opioid fentanyl, which can be harmful or even fatal when absorbed through the skin or inhaled.”
Law enforcement agencies around the world already utilize handheld narcotics analyzers to quickly identify suspected narcotics in the field to help keep drugs, and drug dealers, off the streets. But more prison personnel are looking at this chemical identification technology to keep narcotics out of the cells.
The latest handheld narcotics analyzers utilizes a well-established analytical technique called Raman spectroscopy, to immediately identify the substance. These handheld analyzers can detect key drugs of abuse as well as common cutting agents, precursors and other threats such as fentanyl, fentanyl compounds and analogs, as well as the fentanyl precursors, NPP and ANPP. The instruments offer a presumptive test that is more accurate and reliable than colorimetric drug tests, providing law enforcement officials a quicker method to identify suspected narcotics without having to send them out to a lab. And, with these analyzers, law enforcement personnel can identify most substances through sealed packaging, increasing officer safety.
The Marshall Project, which describes itself on its website as a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization, reported on the nation’s overdose crisis in prisons and jails. The article noted:
Drugs get into prisons and jails in a variety of ways, according to current and former prisoners and staff, including through visitors and packages and letters to incarcerated people. Friends and family can tuck strips of paper soaked with drugs into mail or books, and if they get past the mailroom, people in prison can eat them, or roll them up and smoke them. Incoming prisoners can swallow drugs or hide them in body cavities.
Using this Raman technology, one can scan a sample and receive the result within seconds. (You can read about these and other reasons handheld Raman analyzers strengthens law enforcement for narcotics identification here.)
There have been other approaches to mitigating the contraband that comes in through the mail system. The US Dept. of Justice Testing and Evaluation Consortium published studies on ways to manage the introduction of drug contraband through the digitization of inmate mail. Because drugs can be sprayed onto paper, incorporated into ink, and even hidden under stamps, one of the approaches suggested by the Consortium includes diverting the inmates’ incoming mail, and then converting it to a digital form that is distributed to inmates via tablets or kiosks. However, routing the correspondence to central systems, processing it, and delivering to the right facility, and the correct recipient could become cumbersome. Also, the Consortium noted that “unlike personal mail, legal mail is protected by attorney-client privilege. Staff may open privileged mail to check for contraband but only in the presence of the inmate; thus, some of the [digitized] solutions discussed above may not be acceptable in all jurisdictions.”
Another report from the Consortium addressing Detecting and Managing Drug Contraband suggested that a multilayered approach using X-ray scanners, chemical detection devices, the above-mentioned digitized mail programs, and facility-based drug treatment programs can significantly reduce drugs within correctional facilities. The belief is that these methods are needed because “physical searching of individuals entering a correctional facility is time consuming, and clever concealment efforts make it difficult to identify incoming drugs with any one technology or strategy.”
The newest Federal data reported from the US Department of Justice, is unfortunately a few years old, but according to the Mortality in State and Federal Prisons, 2001-2018 – Statistical Tables report, as reported by NPR, overdose deaths in state prisons have jumped dramatically over the past 20 years. The number of people who have died of drug or alcohol intoxication in state prisons rose more than 600%,
“The new data does not include information about what drugs people are using behind bars. But interviews with currently and formerly incarcerated people in five states and the federal system, plus news reports and death data from the Texas, California and Arizona corrections departments, suggest that opioids (especially fentanyl), methamphetamine, and the synthetic marijuana drug K2 are largely to blame.”
Prison officials utilizing handheld narcotics analyzers to quickly identify suspected illegal drugs in the facilities and get clear, definitive results are just one way to help keep drugs out of the cells – even if they are delivered via a sweetheart’s love note.
Post Author: Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane.
Leave a Reply