How to fund drug detection and interdiction equipment for prisons and jails

Corrections agencies are often not aware of available grants for the purchase of critically needed drug detection and interdiction equipment


Recent drug exposures to corrections staff, and the rise in inmate overdoses in correctional facilities reported over the last few weeks, is cause for alarm.

Several events of synthetic marijuana (K2) and opioid/fentanyl exposure in prisons and jails have been reported in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arkansas. Other states, including Maryland, have taken precautionary measures in attempts to thwart a similar event in their facilities. Many staff became ill from these exposures, with many corrections departments on lockdown for days.

Whether you are a warden, corrections officer, sheriff’s deputy, investigator, teacher or nurse you know the dangers of narcotics exposure to yourself and those you protect every day. Correctional facilities need proper equipment such as trace detection tools, ion scanners and body scanners to not only detect and identify substances, but also prevent the drugs from entering the facility in the first place. Personal protective equipment such as Tyvek suits, masks, gloves and safety glasses are also critically important to protect from the effects of exposure to these substances.

In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 photo, a selection of confiscated contraband drugs, which were found after smuggling attempts, are displayed at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 photo, a selection of confiscated contraband drugs, which were found after smuggling attempts, are displayed at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Finding funding to cover the cost of this equipment can be challenging. Many state and local corrections budgets are stretched due to rising personnel costs, increases in the inmate population and the cost of maintaining aging facilities.  

Corrections agencies are often not aware of the variety of grant funding that may be available to cover the cost of critically needed drug detection and interdiction equipment. Here are a few federal, state and foundation grants to consider along with some strategies on how to secure these funds.

Federal grant funding options

  • The Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program is one of the largest sources of grant funding for criminal justice and law enforcement equipment. Corrections and Community Corrections are one of the program areas supported with these funds. This year, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is encouraging applicants to focus the funding on officer safety and wellness and drug/violence reduction among other priority areas.

    States and U.S. territories receive annual JAG awards based on strategic plans submitted to the federal granting agency. A portion of this award must be sub-granted to criminal justice partners throughout each state. Reach out to your State Administering Agency (SAA) representative to discuss your needs and inquire about the next application period.  

    Also, many local municipalities across the country receive a local allocation directly from the federal government based on their proportion of the state’s three-year violent crime average. If your city, town or county receives a direct allocation, reach out to the local administrators of these funds to inquire about the availability.
  • The Comprehensive Opioid Site-based Program is a multifaceted competitive grant opportunity that not only supports first responder partnerships with treatment providers, but also includes technology assisted treatment programs, prescription monitoring programs and multi-agency information sharing collaborations. Apply for funding when it becomes available early next year.
  • Residential Substance Abuse Treatment is a federal funding source dedicated primarily to developing and operating substance abuse treatment programs in state, local, and tribal correctional and detention facilities. However, speak to your SAA at BJA to see if a portion of these funds could be dedicated towards your equipment needs.
  • While the federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program provides payments to state and local governments that incur costs of incarcerating illegal aliens, once the payments are received, the funds must be used for correctional purposes. One of the correctional purposes could be drug detection, interdiction or personal protection equipment.
  • The Opioid Affected Youth Initiative which is offered through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, requires the development of a multi-agency task force and data collection, but also can be used to address public safety concerns and equipment for response.
  • Consider the U.S.D.A. Rural Development Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program if you are located in a rural area of the country. It funds public safety services including prisons/jails and equipment for these facilities.

Corporate and private foundations

Many large corporations have established foundations or giving programs that will support state and local government agencies. Several of these have a focus on officer safety and wellness including Target and Firehouse Subs.

Consider grocery stores like KrogerAldi and Safeway that all provide grants aimed at keeping communities safe.

Private foundations such as the Gary Sinise Foundation or the Spirit of Blue are also huge supporters of first responders with a focus on officer and staff safety.

Also approach your local community foundation. The Foundation Center is an excellent source for finding the community foundation located in your correctional facilities geographic area.

Collaborative approach with state/federal agency leadership

A final strategy to consider is joining together with your law enforcement partners and other community stakeholders on a collaborative application. One agency would take the lead to apply for funding to purchase multiple narcotics detection and testing units and x-ray devices.

Several law enforcement agencies across a state or jurisdiction could benefit from this approach and receive this much needed equipment.

Many federal funders encourage this approach and require that a federal or state agency, or regional drug task force take the lead.

Examples of federal grant opportunities to consider for this approach include:

Consider all of these funding sources as possible resources for supporting much-needed drug detection, interdiction and personal protection equipment. Approach the funding sources noted above or agency representatives to discuss your project, relay the urgency for getting the equipment now and apply for these grants as they become available.

The team at PoliceGrantsHelp is ready to assist. Our grant assistance program includes a number of options for departments seeking assistance in securing grant funding to support the work you do for our communities every day.

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