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Reducing Drug Use in Prisons: Pennsylvania's Approach

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Dated: October 1999 Pages: 10-15
Date Published
October 1999
6 pages
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections established the Drug Interdiction Program as a broad-based strategy that combines drug interdiction methods, drug testing, and drug treatment to rid Pennsylvania's prisons of drugs and ensure inmate and staff safety.
The central component of the strategy was a zero-tolerance drug policy. Therefore, inmates caught with drugs were to be criminally prosecuted; inmates testing positive in the routine urine-testing program were to serve disciplinary custody time. The National Institute of Justice helped assess the program's impact in five prisons that represented a cross-section of the State's prison system. Hair and urine specimens were collected from a random sample of male and female inmates in March 1996 and February-March 1998 to assess the program's impact. Results revealed that the percentage of inmates who had used at least 1 illicit drug in the past 90 days declined from 7.8 percent in 1996 to 1.4 percent in 1998. Marijuana was the most frequently used drug. Drug use was comparable among black, white, and Hispanic inmates in 1996 and was largely unrelated to the length of time the inmate had been incarcerated. In addition, inmates imprisoned for drug law offenses were not the most likely to test positive for drug use. The declines in drug use were matched by similar declines in drug finds, assaults on staff, inmate-on-inmate assaults, and weapons seized during searches. Findings indicated that the efforts to remove drugs from the prisons were highly successful and have important implications for the time when inmates return home to their families and communities. Tables, photographs, and notes

Date Published: October 1, 1999