Crackdown on Drug Trafficking in State Prisons! 

Crackdown on Drug Trafficking in State Prisons! 
Posted by FoM on February 17, 1999 at 11:36:39 PT
The drug war just doesn't work!
The drug trade is so cash-flush, dazzling and powerful that there are always a few prison workers willing to risk their livelihoods and freedom for some extra spending money -- they agree to smuggle heroin and other drugs into prison. 
Now, with the formation of a new internal affairs unit, prison drug traffickers are on the run. A major initiative by the California Department of Corrections to clean up its drug-infested prisons and clear up its tarnished image is beginning to bear fruit. The agency's investigators recently cracked a narcotics smuggling ring at San Quentin Prison whose members allegedly included a prison guard, a prison cook and a paroled inmate. It has also broken narcotics cases involving sworn peace officers and other personnel at Ironwood and New Folsom state prisons. The internal affairs unit was created in July 1997 in the wake of allegations that Corcoran State Prison guards had staged gladiator-style fights among inmates. Headed by former Oakland police officer Rick Ehle, its staff of 100 includes veteran narcotics agents. According to grand jury transcripts, internal affairs investigators penetrated the San Quentin ring in late November with the aid of informants within and outside the prison. The suspects smuggled heroin, cocaine and marijuana to an inmate dealer, and his runners distributed the drugs to the ``415'' prison gang. Inmates' families paid for the drug shipments by wiring money to a Western Union account. ``There is a serious problem of drug trafficking in the prisons,'' said Dan Carson, of the legislative analyst's office in Sacramento. ``It's a real concern. And there have been a number of incidents of correctional staff being part and parcel of the drug trade. ``There's a lot of evidence drugs are finding their way into prison,'' he said. ``Heroin, meth -- just about everything seems to find its way behind the walls. Whatever is out there is clearly getting inside the joint.'' The Department of Corrections estimates that at least 70 percent of the state prison system's 160,000 inmates have a substance abuse problem of one kind or another, but it is unclear how many inmates use drugs in prison daily. Tiny capfuls of cocaine usually sell in prison for $20 in cash or $25 in canteen goods from the prison store, Special Agent Tom Moore told a Contra Costa County grand jury in December. Drugs are often traded by inmates for radios, stereos and televisions, and sometimes traded for sexual favors and to solicit acts of violence against other inmates, he said. ``Dope in prison is a very lucrative business,'' Special Agent Mark Roussopoulos of internal affairs told the grand jury. Some guards are coerced by inmates into smuggling drugs. Inmates may first ask a friendly guard to procure insignificant personal items for them, then later blackmail the guard -- who has broken the law by bringing contraband into the prison -- into supplying drugs. Agents used a sting operation to bust the San Quentin narcotics ring. Three suspects were arrested on November 22 and 23 in Richmond, after an undercover agent provided them with drugs that they allegedly agreed to smuggle into San Quentin. Correctional Officer April C. Reynolds, 36, of San Francisco, was charged with two felony counts of heroin trafficking. Reynolds, a single mother who began working at San Quentin three years ago, was released this month from the Contra Costa County Jail after her bail was reduced from $40,000 to $5,000. Her arraignment is scheduled today in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez. She could not be reached for comment. Terry R. Clay, 27, a parolee, was also charged with heroin trafficking. He had been released from San Quentin the day before his arrest. Sherwood Dwayne Coleman, 25, of Hercules -- a supervising cook at San Quentin -- was charged with cocaine trafficking. He was arrested in Richmond after an undercover agent provided him with a packet of cocaine to smuggle into the prison. His trial is scheduled for February 22. Coleman was unavailable for comment. In December, at Ironwood State Prison near Blythe in Riverside County, agents arrested Correctional Officer Richard Melendez, 28. In July, another San Quentin cook, Daniel O'Callaghan, 27, was arrested when he allegedly tried to smuggle methamphetamine into the prison. In May, agents arrested Correctional Officer Michael Laurin, 54, at the California State Prison, Sacramento -- also known as New Folsom. Laurin allegedly bought a pound of marijuana from inmates' relatives who were working undercover for agents. State officials have begun a pilot project to crack down on drug smuggling at two institutions: California State Prison, Solano (in Vacaville) and the Central California Women's facility in Chowchilla. Guard dogs and high-tech equipment such as ion detectors that can detect small traces of narcotics are being used to screen visitors and inmates. Inmates and new prison employees are being subjected to random searches and random drug testing. A collective bargaining agreement forbids random drug tests of existing staff. In addition, the prison system is expanding its substance abuse program -- with plans to add 2,000 drug treatment beds in the prisons and 1,000 beds in residential treatment centers. There are now 3,000 drug treatment beds in the prisons. Early results show that the program improves the recidivism rate of parolees and also helps reduce drug usage inside prison. Internal affairs began investigating Reynolds in July at the request of Arthur Calderon, San Quentin's warden. A prison official had overhead inmates discussing how the female prison guard was supplying drugs to the ``415'' gang, which is composed of inmates from the Bay Area. An informant also told officials that inmate Navarro Van Hook was dealing heroin that he received from prison employees. Van Hook was paroled as scheduled on January 2 in return for his informing on Reynolds. His wife, Earline Whitmore, who arranged for Reynolds to bring ``black tar'' heroin into the prison, received immunity from prosecution in return for her testimony. Agents used Whitmore to set up a meeting with Reynolds, who allegedly agreed to smuggle a shipment of heroin in return for $500. Reynolds and Clay were arrested November 22 at a gas station in Richmond after an agent wearing a body wire gave them 22 grams of heroin to smuggle into San Quentin. The next evening, Coleman was arrested after Whitmore lured him to a shopping mall in Richmond, where an undercover agent provided him with an ounce of cocaine to smuggle into the prison. Coleman told agents that he had smuggled drugs on three prior occasions to the prison's main kitchen, where Van Hook worked as an inmate in the sandwich room. Investigators described Van Hook as a ``middle manager'' in the drug ring. An ounce of cocaine, worth $2,000 wholesale, could be cut with baking soda in the kitchen, then distributed on the prison yard, they said. 
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