Banning family visits does not stop drugs from being smuggled into Florida prisons, the Miami Herald reported Aug. 17.
The newspaper conducted a study during the COVID-19 pandemic using publicly available data maintained by the Florida Department of Corrections.
Prior to the pandemic, prison officials held that friends and family members of the incarcerated were catalysts for drugs and contraband entering the prison.
But according to the Herald, during the early days of the pandemic when Florida had banned friends and family from visiting, the prison experienced an influx of drugs that was 40% greater than that of the preceding two years.
Correctional officers face high living costs with low pay in the state, which is a problem for the agency as a whole, according to Ron McAndrew, a former Florida prison warden. Aiding or ignoring contraband and smuggling helps the younger guards make quick cash, the newspaper said.
This phenomenon is not isolated to Florida. In California, a former San Quentin State Prison corrections officer and three associates pled guilty to charges of conspiring to smuggle cell phones to a Death Row resident in December 2019 and May 2020, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Michelle Glady, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections, said the state’s prisons have a “zero tolerance for staff who violate the law and our procedures.” She also said that a very low percentage of contraband enters Florida’s prisons via staff.
“Florida Department of Corrections and the Office of Inspector General have a strong record of ensuring individuals who introduce contraband are arrested,” Glady said.
The Miami Herald reports that 60,500 grams — about 135 pounds — of drugs were seized at Florida prisons in 2020. The seizures included heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, oxycodone, methamphetamine, illegal prescription drugs, narcotic pills, suboxone, and the deadly synthetic marijuana called K2.
K2 is occasionally laced with rat poison or a bug spray. Some individuals using K2 have experienced heart attacks; others walk around like zombies. Others may “fall out” and experience seizures, including muscle spasms, twitching and foaming from the mouth. The worst outcome is death, the article said.
“In the streets people make mistakes and the treatment is strong, but there [in prison] you just get thrown into a cage,” said Christine, the partner of someone incarcerated at a prison in Avon Park in Florida.