By Amy Smith
Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore proposed tighter drug laws for prison inmates, parolees and probationers on Tuesday in Atlanta, but his claims will have no affect on the Utah State Prison said Jack Ford, spokesman for the Utah Department of Correction.
While campaigning before hundreds of law officers, community leaders and children at an Atlanta YMCA, Gore said that inmates need to be cleansed from substance abuse when they are released from prison.
“I believe we should demand that criminals get clean to get out of jail,” Gore said during his speech. “We know that breaking the cycle of drug addiction is essential to fighting crime.”
Gore’s proposals will have no effect on the Utah State Prison located in Murray off of I-15, said Ford.
“The federal government has no jurisdiction over state correctional institutions,” Ford said.
So should Utahns be concerned about drug problems in state prisons?
Ford said that although drug problems are inevitable at every prison, the Utah State Prison has strict policies that help control substance abuse problems among inmates, parolees and probationers.
“We have a zero tolerance policy on drugs,” Ford said.
Each month prison officials run drug tests on about 2,000 inmates based on a computer generated random selection of prisoners, Ford said. The computer system makes sure that all prisoners are checked on a regular basis.
Prisoners with past record of “dirty urine” are tested for substance abuse more frequently.
If drug tests come back positive, guilty inmates could lose their parole date, visitor privileges, jobs, and outside recess time, Ford said.
“Depending on if it’s a first or second offense, [the inmate] could get maximum security,” Ford said.
Ford said that drugs are smuggled into the prisons in numerous ways.
“Most drugs come in through visitors,” Ford said.
However, Ford said the state prison in Murray has also experienced everything from inmates receiving a bag of drugs from passing cars while working on a construction job outside prison walls to friends throwing tennis balls full of drugs from I-15 into the prison courtyards.
Other prisoners will let their fruit ferment to make their own alcohol. Ford said that alcohol is also considered to be a controlled substance.
Ford said that Utah has 16,000 parolees and probationers who are also tested for substance abuse.
If test results are positive, the guilty party often has the choice of either paying for drug rehabilitation treatment or returning to prison.