Suboxone-Soaked Pictures Cause Virginia Jail To Ban Personal Photos

By McCarton Ackerman 03/15/16

Some prisons have resorted to banning photographs and even greeting cards because of the the drug-soaked paper trend.

Suboxone-Soaked Pictures Cause Virginia Jail To Ban Personal Photos
Photo via Shutterstock

A Virginia jail is reducing its inmates' privileges even further, after discovering that prisoners were receiving drug-soaked photographs in the mail.

Western Virginia Regional Jail has banned inmates from receiving personal photographs after jail officials intercepted pictures that had been soaked in Suboxone. Superintendent Bobby Russell told the Roanoke Times that the photos, which were covered in a liquid form of Suboxone, can easily pass inspections because it only leaves a slight stain on white paper. Inmates who receive the photos chew on them to absorb the drug, he said. The jail had already banned any papers containing drawings or paintings, and all non-white paper after intercepting such material that had also been saturated in Suboxone, but Russell said they are looking at ways for inmates to begin receiving photos again.

Finding creative ways to obtain Suboxone behind bars has apparently been growing in popularity at other correctional facilities, as well. It has also become a problem at the New River Valley Regional Jail, which is also in Virginia. “We have been having issues with that type of thing probably for the past 10, maybe 12, years,” Superintendent Gerald McPeak told the Times. He described finding Suboxone in everything from the paint in children's drawings and in between pages that had been glued together.

As correctional facilities across the country have become wise to the elaborate drug smuggling attempts by some prisoners, these inmates have had to get even more creative in recent years. Last May, a former chemical engineer was sentenced to over a year in prison for sending drug-laced mail to inmates at the Joseph V. Conte Jail in Pompano Beach, Fla. William Hahne, 57, pleaded guilty to two federal conspiracy charges after admitting he soaked his jail mail with the synthetic hallucinogen NBOMe, which has a similar effect to LSD. The two inmates he sent the mail to ran a drug ring inside the jail, charging fellow prisoners $10 per “hit,” or a tiny square of the postcard.

Several jails and prisons across the country have reported drug-dropping drones leaving packages in recreation yards that include illegal substances and contraband. One drone even sparked a brawl between nine inmates at an Ohio prison last August.

In California, some parolees are even getting arrested on purpose to smuggle drugs behind bars. Ever since the state’s prison realignment legislation was enacted in 2011, which gives California parole violators the chance to serve 10 days in a county jail instead of months in a state prison, some parolees have taken to committing a minor infraction so they are arrested, and then swallowing balloons of drugs that won’t come up in strip searches.

An Associated Press survey found that seven of the 10 most populous counties in California have seen an increase in illegal contraband since the realignment began, with narcotics cases jumping from 145 in 2011 to 335 in 2014.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.