CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Widespread drug use within the state’s prison and jail system has prompted a need for drastic action by the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
Department Secretary Jeff Sandy began his effort to rid the state’s prisons, regional jails, and juvenile facilities of drugs the day he took office. He admitted he really didn’t’ know how bad the problem was.
“We’ve been successful in curbing a lot of the activity,” Sandy explained.
A new policy requires all inmate mail to be photo copied and given to inmates instead of the originals. The change came after it was discovered pictures, both hand drawn by children or photographs, were coated with synthetic drugs. Sandy said they are also working on addressing the problem of drugs smuggled into the jail inside body cavities.
The next step in the ongoing effort is the hiring of former Putnam County Deputy Jack Luikart. Sandy announced Thursday the hiring of the retired lawman as the Department’s Director of Correctional Substance Abuse Control.
“You have corrections officers who have not had the law enforcement experience,” Sandy explained. “Jack is obviously one of the most well-respected narcotics investigators in the Southern Judicial District of West Virginia.”
Luikart’s job will entail training correction officers in how to spot drugs being smuggled into the lockup and implementing policies to eliminate the activity. Sandy also wants Luikart to work with young adult and juvenile inmates to help change the culture of drug use when those individuals come to incarceration.
He related a story which summed up why Luikart will be valuable in the role. Luikart worked closely with one young inmate who wanted to start a group within the juvenile lockup.
“Jack asked him, ‘What is your plan when you get released?'” said Sandy. “That young man said, ‘I plan to sell drugs. What else is there for me to do.'”
Part of Luikart’s job will be to change such attitudes and make inmates realize their mistakes and get treatment. Sandy said reducing recidivism is one of the key points of the corrections system.
“What good does it do for rehabilitation if someone comes into one of our facilities and they have access to controlled substances like they did on the outside?’ Sandy explained. “What have we accomplished in the rehabilitation program? We have lost.”