Corrections spokesman: stopping contraband in mail not easy
CLARINDA — The Iowa Department of Corrections says a large-scale investigation turned up evidence of approximately 60 inmates who were consuming, possessing, or introducing the synthetic drug K-2 at the prison in Clarinda.
Department of Corrections spokesman Cord Overton says staff at the Clarinda facility began noticing last week a sudden increase in the number of inmates experiencing symptoms of narcotics use. Dogs from six Iowa prisons were brought in and searched the facility. The Clarinda prison does have its own drug dog — but he says that is not enough.
“This synthetic K-2 can be really challenging to identify — even for a well-trained canine unit. And so it’s not just a canine that is often going to find this specific type of contraband. They can certainly help in finding some other type of contraband,” Overton says. ” But in this case, it is really going to take a lot of work around the mail system itself and some shifts in policy and procedures in order to start to curb the amount of contraband that is coming into that system,” Overton says.
Every piece of mail is also examined when it comes in, but drugs still get by.” They are getting very sophisticated in how they are lacing this paper that is coming into the U.S. mail system. And even doing that is not enough to try and curb the amount of contraband coming in,” he says. Overton says they are trying to sort through all the evidence found in Clarinda to decide the punishment for the contraband.
“Often what’s going to happen is inmates will face just disciplinary action within our own correctional disciplinary system. But those who have been involved in the actual distribution, and have been involved in helping get it into the prison — and those on the outside who have been involved in actually tainting this mail and sending it in — those are the folks that we really want to work with law enforcement and really focus on,” according to Overton.
The announcement comes as civil rights groups raised concerns about a new state policy banning family, friends, and third parties from sending books to inmates in Iowa’s prisons. Overton says they are trying to balance the prisoners’ needs for books with the need to keep out drugs.
“I think the very people who might be critical of policies that try to curb the introduction of contraband would also be very critical if we have inmates overdosing and dying on the floors of our prisons from consuming the contraband,” Overton says. “So, we want to be smart and balanced as we approach this issue.” The Iowa Legislature has already been talking about giving the prison system more money to add staff. Overton says staffing is not the biggest issue in trying to stop contraband.
“This issue, in particular, is really about the mail system and the abuse of it. Certainly, more staff could be of assistance in terms of providing security and safety around our prisons,” Overton says. “The Legislature I think understands the needs of the correctional system right now, and we appreciate every bit of resources they give us.”
The Corrections Department has been under greater scrutiny after the recent deaths of two staff members at the Anamosa prison. Two inmates are accused of killing them during an escape attempt.