ARKANSAS PRISON DEATHS - Despite new prison mail policies, Five Arkansas Prison inmates have died within days of each other allegedly due to overdoses from the substance known as K-2 which is a synthetic drug that mimics the effects of marijuana. Inmate mail is one method where contraband, including drugs, is smuggled into prisons.
The inmates were found dead within a four-day span at the Arkansas State Department of Correction's Varner Unit, a maximum security prison southeast of Pine Bluff. According to a report by public radio KUAR in Little Rock, officials from the Arkansas Department of Corrections and the state Board of Corrections testified at a joint legislative subcommittee hearing last week focus on efforts to curb deaths due to illegal drug usage in state prisons.
Correction Department spokesman Solomon Graves said the agency will suggest imposing stricter penalties for the drug, which shares a classification with marijuana.
"It should not be a Schedule VI drug. K2 has no redeeming qualities. Our hope is that if we can increase the penalties for the drug, it will increase the deterrent value" explained Graves.
Arkansas Corrections department officials say 13 inmates died from complications related to using K2 last year. So far this year, 13 inmates have died of drug overdoses in Arkansas prisons with six of those deaths confirmed as related to K2.