Clinton Offers Proposals to Cut Drug Use in Prisons
On January 12, President Clinton announced a directive to the Attorney
General aimed at reducing illegal drug use in prison (Press Release, "Zero
Tolerance for Drug Use and Drug Availability for Offenders," The White
House, Office of the Press Secretary, January 12, 1998; Christopher
Wren, "Clinton to Require State Efforts to Cut Drug Use in Prisons,"
New York Times, January 12, 1998, p. A1; Elizabeth Shogren,
"Clinton to Order States to Fight Prison Drug Use," Los Angeles
Times (Washington Edition), January 12, 1998, p. A5; Elizabeth
Shogren, "President to order states to assess prison drug use, chart
battle plan," Houston Chronicle, January 12, 1998, p. 5A;
Peter Baker, "President Announces Directive, Proposals To Deal With
Drug Use by Prison Inmates," Washington Post, January 13,
1998, p. A5).
According to the memorandum addressed to Attorney General Janet Reno,
"With more than half the offenders in our criminal justice system estimated
to have a substance-abuse problem, enforcing coerced abstinence within the
criminal justice system is critical to breaking the cycle of crime and drugs."
Clinton's directives to Reno include:
- "Amend the guidelines requiring States receiving Federal prison
construction grants to submit plans for drug testing, intervention, and
treatment to include a requirement that States must submit a baseline report
of their prison drug abuse problem. In every subsequent year, States will
be required to update and expand this information in order to measure the
progress they are making. ..."
[This could lead to more investigations of corrupt prison guards and
better prison management. Or it could lead to less prison visitation by
families, more restrictions on mail, work release, educational and religious
programs in prison. -- EES]
- "Draft and transmit to the Congress legislation that will permit
States to use their Federal prison construction and substance abuse treatment
funds to provide a full range of drug testing, drug treatment, and sanctions
for offenders under criminal justice supervision."
[This is potentially positive. But the treatment component is unlikely
to win GOP support. See Canada's proposal for methadone
maintenance in prison. -- EES]
- "In consultation with States, draft and transmit to the Congress
legislation that requires States to enact stiffer penalties for drug trafficking
into and within correctional facilities."
[This third proposal is a pandering, quick fix idea that has been around
for a long time.
In 1984 Congress clarified penalties for possessing or trafficking in contraband
in prisons: drugs, guns, explosives, knives, escape materials, money, etc.
The penalty for possessing a firearm, bomb, grenade, ammunition or escape
material was 10 years. The penalty for possessing or trafficking in
drugs was 5 years. (P.L. 98-473, section 1109; 18 U.S.C.
In consideration of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, the Senate adopted
Phil Gramm's amendment to establish a 20-year sentence for possession of
heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD or PCP in prison. In conference,
I pointed out to Gramm's staff that 20 years would be twice the sentence
for possessing a bomb or a machine gun in prison. The reply was "This
has to be in the bill because this is Senator Gramm's contribution to the
Anti-Drug Abuse Act." This absurdity is still the Federal law (P.L. 100-690,
sec. 6468; 18 U.S.C. 1791(b)(1)).
Pennsylvania has a similar absurdity. To bring any weapon or escape material
into a prison, or to possess or receive such in a prison is a first degree
misdemeanor with up to five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine (18 Pa.C.S.
5122 (1990)). To bring drugs into prison is a second degree felony, up
to 10-years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine (18 Pa. C.S. 5123
(1990)). In Maryland, delivery, receipt or possession of weapons or escape
material in prison can lead to a 10-year sentence; delivery of, or possession
with intent to deliver, drugs can lead to a 3-year sentence. (27 Md. Cr. Laws.
Ann. sec. 122A (1995)). -- EES]
For a copy of the memorandum to the Attorney General, call the White
House Fax Request Line at (202) 395-9088 (document #013698) or call
the White House Publications Office at (202) 395-7332.