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Detecting and Managing Drug Contraband: An Overview of Technologies for Managing Entry of Drug Contraband and Detecting their Use in Correctional Facilities

NCJ Number
Date Published
14 pages

This “technology brief,” one in a series that focuses on contraband in corrections facilities, addresses the strategies to detect and manage drug contraband.


The brief first notes that drug use is prolific in the U.S. correctional system, bringing with it increased violent incidents with staff and between inmates, decreased health and well-being of the inmates and staff, and an undermining of offender rehabilitation. The strategies for addressing this security and rehabilitative threat focus on drug detection at points of entry to the facility by requiring all staff, inmates, visitors, delivered consumables, mail, and personal items to be searched before entry. A multilayered approach is recommended. This strategy uses X-ray scanners, chemical-detection devices, digitized mail programs, and facility-based drug treatment programs. Although technology cannot fully replace the necessity of the vigilance and security procedures performed by staff, technology can address variations in drug composition and intercept them at points of entry in hidden containers or where concealed in the correctional facility. The goal for corrections is a cost-effective technology with appropriate capability that ensures staff safety and dependably detects drug compounds. Promising technologies such as hyperspectral imaging, which combines spectroscopy and digital imaging technology, can identify unique chemical compounds, thus providing an innovative method of detecting hidden drugs that continue to evolve in various combinations. 10 figures

Date Published: January 1, 2021