Synthetic marijuana have a major impact on the country’s prisons
New trends show that the drug is flooding the prisons in the country, allowing officials to act.
CAMPHILL, Pa. – In Florida, over the last two years have been the deadliest in the prison history. In Pennsylvania, 50 staff members became ill recently, and 33 prisoners were admitted to the hospital, which is a 12-day statewide prison lockdown.De culprit: synthetic marijuana, or K2.
The drug is who are in prisons throughout the country, and has become one of the main causes of mortality among the prisoners, experts say. Law enforcement officials call it one of the most dangerous drug issues, the prison system has ever seen.
“This is a national phenomenon – the Ohio, Mississippi, Arkansas and others – have all seen a spike in events and drug-related overdoses,” said Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “And now it’s our turn.”
On 29 August Wetzel closed on 25 prisons visitors, and stopped the most mail service for its 46,768 prisoners after what corrections officials believe was a massive exposure to K2.
A lock is set Aug. 29, closed more than two dozen prison facilities for visitors, and stopped the most mail service for 46,768 prisoners. It is also a need 15,000 employees to don protective clothing.
“We had to stabilise the situation,” said Wetzel. “This is the construction of the last two months. In July, we had 22 prisoners, with drug overdose, August 23, and a series of approximately 50 people reported illness.”
The increase in overdoses has prompted the department for the launch of new security measures and policies, including drone-detection equipment, high-tech body scanners, and a possible lifelong ban on prison visits, for anyone who is trying to sneak drugs into prisons. The goal of the security measures, Wetzel said, is to try to stop all drugs in the prison by means of different methods, including regular mail, outside of the books and publications, drones, and the visits of family and friends.
The new measures will cost Pennsylvanians $15 million.
But Pennsylvania is not the only country that experienced deadly K2 outbreaks in the prisons.
According to a report from the Miami Herald, over the past two years have been the deadliest in Florida prison history. The top killer, according to an internal Florida Department of Corrections audit: synthetic marijuana, commonly called K2 or Spice — the same substance that in the Pennsylvania prison system. Last year alone, the Florida corrections department confiscated 56,549 have largely turned grams of the K2.
The Arkansas Department of Corrections was one of the first systems to implement increased security measures after the login 1,136 reports of K2 last year. The department placed a ban on newspaper clippings and original pieces of e-mail delivered to inmates, after officials discovered paper laced with the drug. Now, prisoners received personal pieces of mail, after the employees copied.
Even Texas, the nation’s largest state-run system with 110 prisons, has seen a spike in the K2 use among the prisoners.
“K2 is the new drug of choice, within and outside the prison,” said Inspector General Bruce Toney, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, during 2017, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.
Typically, the chemical-made drug like marijuana, and is sprayed onto dried plant material and packaged for resale. But Wetzel believes that, in Pennsylvania, the drug is sprayed on paper or liquid in a printer ink, and fed into the prison by inmate mailings, just like in Arkansas.
“Employees began to complain of shortness of breath, rapid heart rate and dizziness,” says Wetzel, “The odorless substance that makes it so hard to detect. Without these extra measures for security, are we not of the staff to stop it.”
Pennsylvania prisons will no longer accept or sorting of the prisoners, personal and legal mail. All mail must be sent to a separate address, where it will be scanned and processed before being forwarded to the inmate.
Inmates are attracted to the drug because it is so difficult to detect during random drug tests.
“K2 is especially attractive for the population,” said Patrick Trainor, a special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, “since the psychoactive substances traditionally go unnoticed during a urine test.”
Dr. jeanmarie Perrone, director of medical toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said the growing use of K2 among the inmate population can be “catastrophic.”
“The use of any drugs in the prison is a problem,” Perrone said, “but if you have a mix K2 [a substance that is constantly in development] with fentanyl, as we have seen throughout the region all summer — it can be a disaster waiting to happen.”
Pennsylvania State Police and corrections staff will continue to investigate the sources of illegal drugs, but the status of that probe is unclear.
In the meantime, Wetzel, who said that his goal is to get all of the drug traffic in the prison, believes the security will ensure a healthy environment for all inmates.
“The vast majority of the detainees are doing the right thing,” he said, “but we can’t create a rehabilitation environment, if it is not safe.”
Talia Kirkland is a multimedia reporter based in Philadelphia, Pa.