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Drug War Shifts to Maine’s Jails and Prisons
July 5, 2012
On May 8 of this year, a man with a fake wig and beard walked into the CVS Pharmacy at Stone St. in Augusta, ME, handed the pharmacist a note and walked out with 2,154, 30mg OxyCodone pills; street value $75,000. Two options: make a few cell calls and lay off the pills a few at a time for $75,000 or go for the bigger, more secure market and double your money in a few days. How? Get them into Maine’s biggest, most concentrated drug market – our jails and prisons. The prison system runs on camaraderie – good will among the wellintentioned and otherwise. Staff is consigned to a job that receives little thanks and a lot of criticism. It is a high-stress environment with few if any skills transferable to other professions. Like the rest of us, those who work in corrections are people with money problems, relationship problems, health problems and a desire to do good where there is little. The Grim Realities: A July 2 news report (http://www.kjonline.com/news/First-report-frompainkiller-abuse-panel-near-.html) outlined the grim realities – “lack of funding and historic tension between law enforcement and addiction treatment”. The “long, blue line” of law enforcement and corrections circles the wagons as public alarm escalates. Good people on both sides of the fence will be sacrificed before the drug problem is solved. How, you may ask, can you get illicit drugs into our jails and prisons? It may be as simple as a cup of coffee. An Ex-Prisoner and Drug Addict’s Point of View: A former prisoner and drug addict who shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons, says it starts with something as simple as, “Officer Tom, can I get you a cup of coffee?” That seems like an innocent enough gesture. One day, as the bond develops, the dynamic changes. Standing in the way of duty are too many coffees and too much personal conversation. Making a phone call and bringing in a small package that can fit in the palm of a hand is all it takes to make an extra $1,000 cash.
In that package will be 300 30mg Oxy’s, America’s latest synthetic heroin. The 300 Oxy’s will be laid off in a day. The rationalization is that they will help keep order. Where does the money come from? Mom or Grandma, who may be addicted to pain killers themselves, will be instructed to send $600, more or less, to a PO Box held by an outside contact. Within a week, $18,000 has been received. The prisoner and the outside source split $17,000 – a net of nearly $80 a pill. Robbing pharmacies is only one way to drug entrepreneurship. Others are: Steal a prescription pad from a doctor, copy it with another phone number, write out a prescription and have a buddy stand by to receive the call from the pharmacy…Medicaid pays… Order pills from Mexico without prescription…Deliverable UPS or FedEx… Buy them in Haverhill/Lawrence MA at less than half street value… Fly down to FL and, for $250 each, get prescriptions at 20% street value from the “pill mills” masquerading as walk-in pain clinics… Supply cocaine-in-exchange-for-prescriptions to physicians trying to stay alert while working 90-hr weeks… An Ex Staff-Member’s Point of View: A former state prison staff member in fear of his life insists that it is not the prisoners who initiate these drug deals. “Drugs make the job of managing the pods easier”. His take is that officers receive money from prisoners’ families and recruit other officers in order to keep order. Some officers, he suggests, are addicted themselves. “It is a widespread drug ring run by staff and tacitly approved by the administration.” The Maine Picture: According to a recent poll, 9% of Maine residents admit to using illicit drugs (http://www.recoveryconnection.org/maine-drug-rehab/). From 1998 – 2008, Maine residents seeking treatment for opiate prescription drugs rose 1200%, making Mainers the most addicted to painkillers of any state in the nation (http://www.drugfree.org/jointogether/addiction/maine-tops-nation-in). With 45% of the arrests in Maine being drug-related and Maine disinclined to spend wisely or consistently on treatment, we look to a future of more crime, less justice and more prisons.