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Thumbs down: More drug testing needed in prisons

Jan. 08, 2013 @ 10:35 PM

Drug abuse has been the driving factor in America's growing prison population.

Prison officials in West Virginia and other states stress that 70-80 percent of inmates are in jail for a crime that is in some way drug-related. They were selling drugs, they stole to buy drugs or they were involved in violence that sprang from drug use or trafficking.

So, it is not surprising that drug use can continue when some of these offenders go to prison, and in some cases, the prevalence of drugs in prison is on the rise.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction does an annual drug screening, and this October found that 3.32 percent of inmates tested had drugs in their system. That is up from 1.74 percent the year before and the highest percentage in recent years. About 6,800 of the nearly 50,000 inmates in the state's 28 prisons were tested, according The Associated Press and the Columbus Dispatch.

As we have seen locally, smuggling drugs into jail is done in a variety of ways. Visitors and inmates bring them in on their person or hidden in their shoes or clothing. Ohio officials say connections on the outside also throw drugs over the walls and fences of prisons, concealed in everything from tennis balls to clumps of dirt.

Unfortunately, corrections officers are sometimes also involved.

Ohio officials say they will be working to improve security, but it also makes sense for prisons across the country to step up drug testing and mandate treatment programs for those testing positive. We spend billions putting drug-addled people into jail, and we need to take advantage of every opportunity to help them beat their drug problem.

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