Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jun 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Associated Press
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.


VACAVILLE (AP) - California inmates are dying of drug overdoses at 
nearly triple the national rate and it's unclear whether the tough 
steps state officials took this year to stop illicit drugs from 
getting into prisons are having any effect, though they are prompting 
criticism from civil rights advocates.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is spending $8 
million this year on drug-detecting scanners and a new breed of 
drug-sniffing dogs while also employing strip searches on visitors 
suspected of carrying drugs.

Corrections officials believe the stepped-up efforts are discouraging 
smuggling, but the data that's available so far doesn't support that 
- - more than 6,000 scans have been done on visitors and employees at 
11 prisons since December without finding anyone with drugs.

The state doesn't track if anyone has been arrested because of the 
dog searches and waited until mid-May to begin tracking the number of 
arrests made using any of the new procedures.

Meantime, criticism is mounting about false-positive results by the 
scanners and dogs that can lead to strip searches. Concerned 
lawmakers who oversee state prisons included language in the 
California budget plan passed last week that would end the searches 
and require an evaluation of the department's other efforts.

"It's a humiliating process, can be easily used to humiliate and 
demean people, and was only for visitors, often women," Democratic 
Sen. Loni Hancock, said of the strip searches.

But no one wants to see drug deaths, and she said the evaluation will 
show which of the new programs are effective.

More than 150 California inmates have died of drug overdoses since 
2006, with a high of 24 in 2013.

Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard recently told lawmakers that 
drugs are "rampant in the prisons."
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