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Why visit restrictions are a must in combating inmate overdoses

Drugs can be passed through kissing, hugs, holding hands and through the board games and vending machine items located at a facility


In the wake of four drug overdoses – one fatal – the New Hampshire Department of Corrections has decided to implement new restrictions on visits. Kisses are no longer allowed. Hugs are limited to three seconds. Inmates and visitors can hold hands, but those hands must be visible at all times. Vending machines and board games will be removed. 

For those who have a security mindset (safety and security being paramount), the above list of restrictions is a great effort by the DOC to minimize the amount of drugs entering the facility. To the uninformed, they may see this as a punishment rather than an effort to neutralize a threat. 

Safety and security

Most administrators do not want to punish all inmates for the actions of one, but when working inside a prison the threat must be neutralized.
Most administrators do not want to punish all inmates for the actions of one, but when working inside a prison the threat must be neutralized.

Our number one job in corrections is safety and security. Even though there are some who may see these preventive measures as being extreme, they are reactionary measures that are meant to restore safety and security. Once administrators know a threat exists, failure to act will leave the facility vulnerable and put corrections officers’ safety at risk. 

As mentioned above, the DOC had four overdoses, one of which was fatal.  When the word got out that drugs may be coming in through visits, management and custody had to act quick. They took note of some of the possible ways visitors could sneak drugs into the facility and give them to the inmate population. In this case, management and custody identified that drugs can be passed through kissing, hugs, holding hands and through the board games and vending machine items located at the facility. 

Once the facility administrators recognized that these were areas of risk, they could not ignore them and hope that sneaking in drugs wouldn’t happen again. They had to act. So, they added restrictions. These restrictions are actually minimal, as opposed to completely eliminating contact visits.

Restricted visits

For individuals that view these restrictions as punishment, there are two things that need to be considered. First, management and custody are looking to maintain a safe and drug free environment. Second, they are only reacting to issues that the inmates are bringing upon themselves (bringing in contraband). If inmates cared about visits, they wouldn't be using visits as a tool to bring in drugs.

When these visit restrictions at the DOC came to light, some inmates decided to protest. Whether the inmates went on a hunger strike, or lit small fires in the unit, management and custody were not in a position to back away from the restrictions that were implemented. If the inmates truly wanted these restrictions to be lifted and for their visits to go back to normal, they should be partnering with staff to determine how the drugs are coming into the facility. 

Neutralizing the threat

Most administrators do not want to punish all inmates for the actions of one, but when working inside a prison the threat must be neutralized. Management and custody took a great step forward in preventing more overdoses. They took this measure because they needed to identify and neutralize the threat. Their actions are in direct accordance with the running of a safe and secured facility. 

Staff reacted to a threat that was initiated by the inmate population – a threat that led to the death of an inmate. The individuals that protest in opposition of the restrictions are the same people that would protest over the death of that one inmate.

In closing, remember, the greater good cannot be seen outside of the context in which it originates.  New Hampshire DOC made a strong stance on saving lives. Let's support the restrictions they implemented and be mindful that these restrictions are based on the actions of those who chose to take advantage of the privileges they were given. Until management and custody can identify the threat, all options must be made to eliminate the chance for that threat to thrive. As for the inmates, if they want those restrictions lifted, work with management and custody. The restrictions were put into play, not because staff wanted to do it, but because the inmates made them do it.

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