The discovery of more than half a pound of synthetic marijuana, known as K2, before it and other illegal cargo could be smuggled into the Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie last week is a worthy reason to be concerned about prison security here and in other counties in the state.
But the people doing the worrying are the same people whose job it is to prevent contraband from getting past the metal detectors and other security barriers in the first place.
Michael Mazzella, Mid-Hudson Region vice president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, or NYSCOPBA, said this week the incident demonstrates the need for a statewide vendor program.
The existing vendor program for the state prison system requires visitors to buy supplies from select online stores.
“This is the second sizable seizure of synthetic marijuana in less than a month,” Mazzella said. “Officers at Green Haven Correctional Facility found over a pound of K2 in a mailed package at the end of March and now we have a similar situation at Greene. Despite the efforts of our members, not all contraband can be discovered. This is another prime example of why a secure vendor program is needed in each facility.”
Wait. Despite the efforts of our members, not all contraband can be discovered?
No doubt there is no such thing as a perfect system and the best correctional officers are human and they make mistakes, but if all contraband is not discovered, what is getting through to the inmates, many of whom are considered dangerous.
Mazzella sounds like he’s making a pitch for a secure vendor program, if not deflecting the contraband issue from his own COs onto vendors, but he is right when he says the current vendor system is scattershot. Walkenhorst’s Inmate Packages, Union Supply Direct, Emma’s Premium Services and Access Securepak are just some of the vendors vying for prison contracts.
But even if the security of the vendor program is tightened, it still falls on the highly trained COs to halt contraband at the prison doors. Mazzella’s point about centralizing prison vendor services is noted, but at the end of the day, the COs are the last line of defense against the flow of illegal drugs and weapons into our state prisons, keeping both COs and inmates safe.