Operation Jail Breach Combats Smuggling in Essex County Jail
Authorities recently shut down an intricate drug smuggling ring in Essex County Correctional Facility, one of the largest facilities of its kind in New Jersey.
Like a scene from The Shawshank Redemption, the investigation revealed an elaborate operation implicating correctional officers, inmates, gangs, probation officers and even a special education schoolteacher. While life is sometimes more troubling than fiction, the Essex County ring and others like it prove that U.S. correctional systems can sometimes house serious flaws.
Of the over two million inmates presently detained in U.S. jails and prisons, more than 50% have a history of substance abuse and addiction. If one takes the view that drugs are a prevalent societal problem, correctional facilities deal with the problem much more often – on a daily basis.
Trafficking rings demonstrate troubling breaches in overall security of prisons and jails. Where there are gaps in safety and protection measures, inmates are at risk for harm and the chance of escape or breakout increases. The very presence of drugs in U.S. jails and prisons demonstrate that inmates are connected or have access to criminal associates inside and outside of their facilities. And as smuggling schemes get more sophisticated, authorities must expend limited resources on detection and prevention.
Growing evidence of jail and prison contraband rings shakes public confidence in law enforcement and correctional officials. In many contraband rings, the “jailor” is the ringleader. Correctional officers, who hold a position of public trust, disregard their duties and the rules for personal gain.
Moreover, inmate health is at risk when drugs are present. It has been reported that more than one million inmates have died from drug overdoses while in custody. The existence of illegal drugs in jails also makes it difficult for addicts to successfully complete substance abuse treatment programs. Those left untreated will relapse and, upon re-entry to the community, will likely re-offend and end up with new drug charges.