Drug Use In Ohio Prisons Lowest Since Testing Began

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - State prison officials say their zero tolerance drug policy is paying off.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reported on Tuesday that drug use in Ohio prisons this fall was the lowest since the department began drug testing in 1990.

Fewer than one of 100 inmates tested positive for amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine and other illicit substances.

However, the 0.88 percent positive rate still means that about 400 of the 44,800 prisoners statewide are using drugs at any time.

The positive rate last year was 1.86 percent.

Officials said the number of positive tests began dropping after the state started cracking down on drugs being smuggled into prisons five years ago. Several arrests were made, including some prison guards.

Besides traditional drug-search methods, state prisons use high-tech methods such as ion scanners to sweep clothing, car-door handles, lunch boxes and other personal items to detect microscopic traces of drugs.

"The department maintains that any positive drug test is unacceptable," said corrections Director Reginald Wilkinson. He said he is pleased with the lower rate, but hopes to see declines in positive tests in the future.

The state tests about 20 percent of all prisoners in October each year. Last month, 9,540 inmates were tested, with 84 positive, mostly for marijuana. The agency also does random monthly testing of 5 percent of all prisoners.

The highest positive rate for the October testing in the past decade was 6.9 percent in 1990. The rate was 2.94 percent in 1997, 1.3 percent in 1998 and 1.7 percent in 1999.

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