MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 29, 2014

Inmates at halfway house test positive for drugs


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY — A recent surprise drug test of some inmates at a halfway house in Oklahoma City found more than half tested positive for illegal drugs, most for the active ingredient in marijuana.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections randomly tested 153 Carver Transitional Center inmates on Monday and 78, nearly 51 percent, tested positive for drug use.

Recently hired Corrections Department Director Robert Patton told The Oklahoman that he ordered the tests after receiving information there was a drug problem at the facility that is run by the private prison operator Avalon Correctional Services Inc.

“I’m extremely concerned with these numbers,” Patton said. “I contacted Avalon, directed an action plan be developed to address these issues, and expect that action plan no later than Monday.”

Inmates at the facility are allowed to leave during the day for work, but are required to return each evening.

Avalon also ran a Tulsa halfway house where allegations of organized inmate fights led the Corrections Department to cancel its contract with the company in January and remove 212 offenders from that facility.

One of those investigations pertains to allegations that officers at the Tulsa facility organized fights between inmates.

Some of the offenders who were transferred from the Tulsa center ended up at Carver.

Avalon has asked the Corrections Department to repopulate the Tulsa facility, and Patton said he will review the company’s plan of action next week before making a decision on whether or not to send state offenders back to the Tulsa center.

Brian Costello, president of Avalon, acknowledged that drug use is a large and ongoing problem in community correction centers such as Carver.

“When these offenders get to a halfway house and get their first taste of freedom many of them make bad decisions and fall back to drug use,” Costello said in an emailed statement to the newspaper.

Costello said the plan that will be submitted will include increased drug testing of offenders, the creation of substance abuse programs, and heightened security measures to keep drugs out of Avalon facilities.