In Missouri's prison system, the cat-and-mouse game of illicit drugs pits 32,000 inmates and thousands more on probation and parole against 11,000 corrrections employees. It's a game that Missouri's largest agency often loses, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Narcotics violations accounted for about a fifth of 5,065 reports of illegal activity in the state's prison system from 2011 to mid-2014. All told, the corrections department's office of Inspector General recorded 980 such incidents during that period, ranking it as the second most common violation behind assault of an inmate by an inmate.
George Lombardi, the veteran leader of Missouri's prison system, says that hardly a week goes by when a visitor doesn't get caught attempting to bring drugs into a prison during visits. “It still happens so frequently that you would think people would learn over a period of time that we are going to bust you, we are going to arrest you,” he said. “But it still happens. It just amazes me.” Experts say the prevalence of drugs in prison signals that drug treatment efforts inside and outside of prisons are ineffective, which undermines the integrity of the whole system. Nearly half of Missouri's first-time drug offender population is back in prison within three years of release.