Selling Heroin in Prison

By Seth Ferranti 02/19/13

Once it's smuggled in, it can be sold for a huge profit, an inmate tells The Fix.

Heroin is a big seller in prison. Photo via

In prisons nationwide, heroin is a big commodity. Prisoners use a wide range of tactics to smuggle drugs inside—from visitors, to warehouses, to the postal system, to manipulating guards. And once it's in, they can make big bucks selling it. "Once you get the chiva in you have to break it down before you get rid of it," one prisoner tells The Fix. "It's not a complicated process but you have to be discreet. The dope is usually brought in by balloons—one gram of heroin per balloon. So once you have the balloons you get to work. One gram is divided into 12 $100 papers. It's best to use a tinfoil or wax like paper to wrap the heroin in when you break it down." If a prisoner smuggles in 3 grams of Mexican black tar heroin, which goes for about $75 a gram on he street, he can get 36 $100 pieces out of it—that's a total of $3,600 back on a $225 investment. "That is why people smuggle drugs into prison," says the prisoner, "The money is good." To pay for the dope, prisoners usually do a "'send out.' That is where they send $100 off their books [commissary account] to an address of my choosing," the prisoner tells us, "Or they can do a 'send in,' where they get their people to put the money on my account. The last way is to do a 'street to street,' where they get their people to send money to my people on the street." When there's this much money to be made, prison fences aren't enough to stop the business thriving.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.