Footballs, Diapers and Kisses: How Drugs Enter New Hampshire Prisons

By Paul Gaita 04/20/16

Prisoners can get pretty creative when it comes to smuggling drugs into the big house.

Footballs, Diapers and Kisses: How Drugs Enter New Hampshire Prisons
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Inmates have figured out some inventive ways to smuggle drugs into prisons. The New Hampshire Union Leader spoke to Jeff Lyons, a spokesman for the NH Department of Corrections (DOC), who listed the many methods inmates have used to bring drugs into state prisons.

“We’ve had situations where people would hide drugs in the wheelchair of a loved one,” said Lyons. “We've had people who've tried to smuggle drugs in through the diapers of their babies.” In another instance, a football stuffed with marijuana was thrown over the fence. Suboxone, when soaked into small strips, has become a popular substance to sneak into prison. “It’s very easy to hide under postage stamps or in the seams of envelopes,” said Lyons, who added that coloring book pages or children's drawings have also been used to conceal Suboxone strips.

Passing drugs, concealed in a balloon, through a kiss has become so commonplace that the DOC is considering a “non-contact” visit policy that's already the rule in many county jails. These efforts echo similar cases heard across the country from facilities like the Western Virginia Regional Jail, where inmates have been barred from receiving photographs after officials discovered pictures that had been soaked in liquid Suboxone

The DOC in New Hampshire has revised its approach to intercepting illegal contraband on numerous occasions, but smugglers have adapted each time, coming up with new ingenious methods of delivery. “We’ve changed our mail policy ... But the stuff still gets in here,” said Lyons. “We’ve prohibited drawings, and we no longer give inmates envelopes. But when officials decided to just give them the contents, "people started cutting open greeting cards and sliding Suboxone into the seams."

DOC officials are hopeful that changes to the drug use management policy, which took effect on April 15, will have an impact on the tide of drugs entering their facilities. The changes are mostly technical, says Lyons. But by doing a better job of tracking rules violations and increasing penalties, officials hope it will make a difference. "Addiction is a very strong thing," said Lyons. "They will find many ways to get the items in here."

The department has implemented a treatment unit at its prison in Berlin that offers medication-assisted treatment with Vivitrol. But as Lyons notes, concrete change remains a far-off goal. “It's a problem we deal with and we've been very forward about that,” he said. “We've made some inroads, but [the drugs] still find their way in here, and it's very frustrating.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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