Begin Main Content Area

Pressure Mounts to Smuggle Drugs into DOC

January 04, 2019 12:00 AM
By: Sue McNaughton

PA Coat of Arms

Recent drug finds prove that inmates running the prison drug trade are anxious to get their drugs inside PA's state prisons as quickly as possible and especially before the scanners are operational.

Mahanoy Drug Find.jpg

A recent drug find at SCI Mahanoy

"When we announced our anti-drug policies several months ago, we knew that people would scramble to get drugs into our prisons. The incidents we are experiencing throughout our system prove that our war on drugs is real," said Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. "When an inmate uses his own mother as a mule to smuggle drugs into the system, as was the case with the Dallas drug find, it shows you how desperate they are to keep the drugs flowing."

The DOC is in the process of installing inmate body scanners. After every visit, inmates will be scanned for contraband, including drugs.

Dallas Drug Find.jpg

A recent drug/congraband find at SCI Dallas

Wetzel also noted that once the inmate body scanners are operational, so too will be visiting room vending machines, although their use and the items they provide will be limited to clear liquid drinks and cold food items and snacks. No timeframe on the operation of the body scanners is available, as installation is underway across the system.

And if you don't think this war on drugs is real, check out this latest drug interception!

On January 2, 2019, SCI Mahanoy officials were called to the prison's mailroom to inspect several packages that had just been delivered. One of the three packages was very different looking from the others.

Security staff x-rayed all the packages and found that the different one appeared to contain multiple balloons. That box was photographed and opened. Inside of the box, laying on top of the package was a children's book which appeared to be soaked with an unknown liquid. Underneath the book were approximately 75 pages of different colored construction paper with a pungent odor. Underneath the construction paper were two manila envelopes with packing tape wrapped around the top.

Mahanoy Drug Find3.png

Mahanoy Drug Find4.jpg

SCI Mahanoy's drug find

The first one was opened and found to contain one yellow balloon with a square content inside along with 29 black balloons. The second envelope was opened and found to contain 22 white balloons and three green balloons … for a total of 55 balloons.  Inside of the yellow balloon were 109 full strips of orange film which was tested and found to be Suboxone. 

All the balloons were opened. They all contained a green leafy substance, suspected K-2. A test was conducted which produced a positive result for synthetic marijuana.  Each balloon was opened, photographed and weighed individually for a total of 735.5 grams or 25.9 ounces of synthetic marijuana. 

Mahanoy Drug Find2.jpg

SCI Mahanoy's drug find

The Dallas drug find mentioned earlier, also is evidence of the pressure on inmates to get their drugs into the prison. On December 23, in the prison's visiting room strip search area, officials discovered an inmate attempting to smuggle two small cell phones, 45 strips of suboxone and 16.5 grams of synthetic cannabinoids into the prison.

Recent finds over the past few months include, but are not limited to:

  • Six full strips and three bundles of suboxone in one cell, and five strips of suboxone found hidden in a dictionary in another cell at SCI Smithfield.
  • Inmate mother (visitor) observed passing balloon full of K2 at SCI Mahanoy.
  • 96.3 grams of synthetic cannabinoids and 165 strips of suboxone in the women's restroom in SCI Forest's visiting room
  • 36 strips of suboxone on an SCI Mercer inmate after a visit
  • 69 strips of suboxone on an SCI Albion inmate after a visit
  • 136 grams of synthetic cannabinoids found in SCI Benner Township's visiting room lobby
  • 338 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, 204 strips of suboxone, 2 cell phones with chargers on the grounds of SCI Benner Township
  • 18.6 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, 25 strips of suboxone and 21 oxycodone pills in the visiting room at SCI Coal Township
  • 205 small packets of synthetic cannabinoids on an inmate at SCI Greene

Each facility works closely with law enforcement and provides them with information and evidence necessary for them to determine whether charges should be filed.

"We continue to be vigilant in our efforts to keep drugs out of our prisons," Wetzel said. "We expected smuggling to increase once we implemented our new mail policy. Introducing contraband and drugs will become even more difficult for inmates and visitors once our inmate body scanners are operational."

Individuals interested in keeping track of drug interdiction performance measures can do so on the DOC website's Drug Elimination Efforts page at

Following the performance measures, individuals can review each month's indicators related to drug finds, percent of positive drug tests, inmate on staff assaults, inmate on inmate assaults, drug related misconducts, violence, inmate trips to ER due to drugs, inmate overdoses and staff trips to ER due to drugs.

Share This