Drugs in Prison

Posted: January 20, 2013 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , ,

addictionPrisons spend big bucks making sure that no one can put drugs inside a tennis ball and throw the ball into a prison. Big chain link fences, netting strung over courtyards, and extra staff to patrol the grounds. The guards put visitors, their car keys, their glasses through high-tech machines to look for signs of drug use.

One day the guys in my class got talking. The question was, “What are you going to do when you get out?”

“I’m going to start an IT business.”

“I got to get my teeth fixed.”

“I’m gonna get married.”

“Listen you guys,” Lewis (not real name) said, “here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna have me a super drug party. I don’t have a lot of money, but I’m going to buy whatever I can and make up for all these wasted years.”

The guys laughed and ignored his comment as so much braggadocio. But his comment stuck with me. Why hadn’t the prison system helped him? Over coming addiction is not just keeping drugs out of the prison.

At the end of the class that year, it was hard to do, but the guys arranged for the prison photographer to take a group picture. They all had to sign releases, and they presented me with the picture. I have it in my room, above my desk.

Lewis is there, with what could be called a smile. But this picture is so poignant – Lewis did exactly what he said he was going to do. He had his drug party and died during it.

All those years he spent in prison. It was no secret that he had a drug problem. No one helped him. No one found the key to Lewis. No one even looked for it. It’s like the individual is not important.

A friend gave me Stephen Reid’s new book, A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden. One passage struck me:

Prisons are about addictions. Most prisoners are casualties of their own habits… Prison provides the loneliness that fuels addiction. It is the slaughterhouse for addicts, and all are eventually delivered to its gates.

Images courtesy of:

  • 123rf.com


  1. Catana says:

    Thanks for introducting me to Stephen Reid. I read the Amazon sample and put the book on my wish list. He’s obviously a hugely talented writer.

  2. Joanne says:

    Very sad story. Unfortunately, not an uncommon one. Sadly our prison system is increasingly more concerned with punishment than with providing treatment that might really make a difference for some people like Lewis. It’s a matter of resource allocation and attitude. They put too much money into the futile effort to keep drugs out of the institutions and not enough on trying to get people not to rely on the drugs in the first place.

  3. judith says:

    thanks Ed. I have gone to a prison to carry drug/alcohol recovery message now for years. There is some evidence that a great number of convicts- somewhere like 85% have drug and alcohol problems. So some friends and I go in to try to help them with finding a new direction when they get out, some personal changes possible right where they are in the present. There is No evidence-based stats to give someone regarding whether they find a new answer, but we give it our best try. There is no other program, no resources for them to find their humanity and no cooperation with those of us who wish to volunteer to try to bring hope. But, every now and them, someone gets it, and gets a change in their life following release, and it is a source of great joy to us who labor quietly in the garden of life.

  4. Catana says:

    Just a note to let you know I read Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden. I was extemely impressed and moved. So much so that I had to search for information about Reid. I was very glad to find that he’s out of prison now, on day parole. The quiet way in which he talks about the things that really matter to him is quite a contrast to his story of the drug-fueled robbery that sent him back to prison.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Good comment, Catana. His wife, Susan Musgrave, is a poet of some renown in our province

      • Catana says:

        I went to their publisher’s site. I’ll probably read Jackrabbit Parole eventually, and her book. I hope Reid stays clean and gets to spend the rest of his life doing some good writing, and enjoying being with his family.

      • Ed Griffin says:

        I don’t think it relates to Stephen, but I have a friend whose doctoral thesis is the reform narrative by prisoners. He’s studied all manner of prison books that are about reform e.g. Go Boy. I hope he can translate his thesis into a book for the public.

  5. Catana says:

    I’ve really been hooked by prison narratives, both from those who are still prisoners (your fault, acquainting me with I. M. GreNada), and some out of prison. I’m equally interested in those serving time for real crimes and those who were railroaded in some way. I hope to write something about that eventually, but as articles rather than a book. I got sidetracked from Wilderness and Razor Wire by Ken Lamberton, which I was enjoying very much and have to get back to. Next on the reading list is probably Life After Death by Damien Echols.

    A video that I highly recommend, Solitary Confinement, is on the National Geographic site for free and also available on DVD.

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