August 24th, 2016
California has the largest death-row population in the US (and, well, in the Western Hemisphere). According to the Los Angeles Times, death-row inmates are now suffering overdoses because even though they are constantly monitored and frequently strip-searched, the guards can’t keep drugs out.
The LA Times found that six death-row inmates died with heroin, methamphetamine or other illegal drugs in their bodies between 2010 and 2015. One prisoner died when balloons full of amphetamines burst in his stomach. Another man, Michael Jones, who hanged himself with an electrical cord, showed signs of drug use.
California prisons as a whole saw 18 drug-related deaths per 100,000 inmates in 2013, about seven times higher than the national rate in the general population. As many as 80 percent of inmates in some cell blocks tested positive for drugs when inquiries were conducted.
The fact that death-row inmates had access to illegal drugs came out by accident during a hearing about the high rate of psychiatric hospitalizations in San Quentin Prison. San Quentin’s mental health director, Eric Monthei, told the judge that “a bad batch of meth” was to blame.
The Judge asked, “When you say ‘a bad batch of drugs,’ you don’t mean the drugs that you’re prescribing, you mean the illegal drugs that were on [the] block; is that right?” Monthei said yes.
A Marin County district attorney spokesman asked by the LA Times could not think of any recent prosecutions for drug smuggling. It’s likely that prison staff have helped smuggle drugs, as has been documented in many other cases, yet no one was caught in Marin County in 2013, and prison officials won’t release info about other years.
Of course, given the terrible mental and physical suffering endured by prison inmates—on death-row, above all—it’s hardly surprising that they should seek some chemical release.