Inmates and Prison Involvement With Drugs

Date01 November 2016
Published date01 November 2016
DOI10.1177/1043986216672770
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2016, Vol. 32(4) 426 –445
© The Author(s) 2016
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986216672770
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Article
Inmates and Prison
Involvement With Drugs:
Examining Drug-Related
Misconduct During
Incarceration
David Patrick Connor1 and Richard Tewksbury2
Abstract
Using data from one Midwestern state, the present study focuses on the importation
and deprivation characteristics of 543 adult inmates to identify the types of inmates
who participate in drug-related behavior during their incarceration. Overall, findings
reveal that currently or formerly married inmates, as well as those engaged in general
prison misconduct, were more likely to be involved in drug-related activity behind
bars. Limitations, directions for future research, and implications for policy and
practice are discussed.
Keywords
drugs, drugs inside prisons, prison misconduct, disciplinary infraction
Introduction
Inmates confined inside prisons across the United States are forbidden from possess-
ing, using, and distributing illicit drugs. The rationale behind prohibiting drugs in the
general population is often based on their negative effects (Inciardi, 2008; National
Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010). In a similar vein, administrators of correctional insti-
tutions recognize that drugs are problematic inside prisons for at least three reasons.
First, the presence of drugs may lead to institutional violence (Feucht & Keyser, 1999;
1Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA
2University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA
Corresponding Author:
David Patrick Connor, Department of Criminal Justice, Seattle University, 901 12th Avenue, P.O. Box
222000, Seattle, WA 98122, USA.
Email: connord@seattleu.edu
672770CCJXXX10.1177/1043986216672770Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeConnor and Tewksbury
research-article2016
Connor and Tewksbury 427
Prendergast, Campos, Farabee, Evans, & Martinez, 2004). Inmates who use drugs may
subsequently behave in aggressive and hostile ways that facilitate violent acts. At the
same time, the distribution of drugs supports violence behind bars, as debts and dis-
agreements between drug dealers and clients are often resolved through assaults and
killings (Pollock, 2013). Further, physical force may become a standard response used
by drug dealers who must react to competitors, informants, thieves, and inmates who
are unwilling to involve themselves and their visitors in drug smuggling. Second,
inmates who use drugs while incarcerated may experience emotional and physical
complications, including anxiety, depression, paranoia, and panic attacks (Williamson
et al., 1997), and they may spread infectious diseases, such as HIV, hepatitis B, and
hepatitis C, throughout correctional institutions. Intravenous drug users behind bars,
for instance, commonly share needles and other equipment (Dolan, Wodak, Hall,
Gaughwin, & Rae, 1996; Shewan, Gemmell, & Davies, 1994).
Third, the financial costs associated with institutional drug activity emerge as per-
haps the most salient concern. In terms of violence that results from the presence of
drugs, such disruptive activity inside prisons may lead to greater expenses associated
with its negative repercussions, like inmate and staff member injury and destruction of
property and infrastructure. Each incident of inmate misconduct, on average, costs
approximately $1,000 (Lovell & Jemelka, 1996). The liabilities posed by inmate mis-
conduct, resulting litigation, and the potential need for constructing higher security
prisons are likely to make such costs even greater (Tewksbury, Connor, & Denney,
2014). Further, inmates with emotional and physical complications (e.g., infectious
diseases) may require long-term care, including various medications for treatment,
creating a significant financial burden. Inmates with HIV may cost correctional sys-
tems at least $10,000 each year, on top of the annual expenses of housing them (Potter
& Rosky, 2014). Moreover, liabilities may be presented if inmates contract infectious
diseases or develop other health issues due to drug activity while incarcerated, increas-
ing financial responsibility.
Because drug-related pursuits by inmates are considered activities that may lead to
institutional violence, health problems, and significant financial costs, such behavior
is universally defined as illegal inside U.S. correctional institutions. This does not
mean, however, that inmates universally refrain from drug-related activity while incar-
cerated. Conditions of confinement may increase the desire to engage in drug-related
behavior (Stark, Herrmann, Ehrhardt, & Bienzle, 2006; Swann & James, 1998), and
illicit drugs are often pervasive inside prisons and entrenched in prison culture (Cope,
2000; Gillespie, 2005; Inciardi, Lockwood, & Quinlan, 1993). Indeed, despite their
inability to openly possess, use, and distribute drugs inside prisons, some inmates may
be willing to risk institutional detection and punishment to become involved in drug-
related pursuits. Inmates who engage in such activity behind bars may also be more
likely to continue such pursuits after confinement and ultimately return to prisons.
Thus, identifying the types of inmates who are most likely to be involved in drug-
related activity behind bars is an important issue to address, as it may help to alleviate
problems associated with institutional security, inmate health, correctional expendi-
tures, and inmate reentry.

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