In every prison system across the country drugs are smuggled in by inmates and guards alike, and alcohol is brewed somewhere within the facility.

Alcohol and Drugs in Prison

Few would argue that prison systems are run so well that alcohol isn’t brewed and drugs aren’t smuggled within their walls. In every prison system across the country drugs are smuggled in by inmates and guards alike, and alcohol is brewed somewhere within the facility, including “white lightning.” This is what happens when you lock up people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and drugs find their way into prison.

The key to a successful term of incarceration is to avoid trouble when possible, and to manage your business when you can’t. Unsurprisingly, those who get high and drunk in prison, as well as those who smuggle drugs and brew prison wine, tend to have more than their fair share of problems. Being involved in these areas — or being around those who are — tends to result in problems for all involved. But the prospect of trouble doesn’t prevent alcoholics and drug addicts from getting drunk and high.

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The administration’s response to these activities is important to understand. To counter contraband activities, all federal prisons require front-line prison guards to conduct searches and shakedowns. This is done in common areas, on walkways, at work details, and in housing units. Inmates can also be subjected to random and suspect breathalyzers and drug tests (urinalysis). Random testing is done by either generating a random list from each housing unit or by prison officials standing on the compound or in a housing unit and calling random prisoners over to blow into a handheld breathalyzer machine.

Suspect testing is different. Prisoners caught drinking or getting high will be placed on the “hot list” for a period of two years. During this period, those on the hot list, along with others suspected of getting high or drinking, will be called over for a breathalyzer or to participate in a drug test. These prisoners can plan on being tested for drugs and alcohol at least once or twice a month.

As consenting adults prisoners can and do engage in many activities. While drinking and getting high are not smart ideas, anyone desiring to engage in such activities should go into it with their eyes wide open.  Be aware that a positive breathalyzer or dirty urine will result in a 100 series incident report and a direct trip to the Special Housing Unit for at least a month.

Here are some points to keep in mind concerning alcohol and drug use in prison:

    • The Federal Bureau of Prisons rarely engages drug testing unless someone has had an incident report within the last two years for dirty urine or a bad breathalyzer. This isn’t to say that the BOP doesn’t test a lot, just that they don’t test regular, non-hot list prisoners very often.
    • Tests used are generic urinalysis cup tests and breathalyzers. If you refuse to submit to testing, you will receive a 100 series incident report for refusing and be escorted to the Special Housing Unit.
    • If you are caught drinking or getting high you will receive a 100 series incident report, be on the hot list for two years, and probably spend a month or two in the hole, plus loss of some privileges for a period of time.
    • You can challenge the testing method through the Administrative Remedy Program. Note that it’s hard to successfully challenge drug and alcohol testing.
    • If you’re going to drink or get high, stay safe and stay away from the prison guards. By staying in your housing unit and not walking around on the recreation yard or compound, you will greatly increase your chances of flying under the radar and keeping out of the hole.

Related Resources:

Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Searches, Shakedowns and Contraband

Psychology Services in Prison

Residential Drug Abuse Treatment

Contact us for more information on alcohol and drug abuse in prison.

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