California prisons find 1 in 4 inmates used drugs

Findings spur call for new regulations and increased penalties for drug and alcohol users

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Nearly a quarter of California's inmate population tested positive to using one or more illegal substances in an initial screening last year, leading state prison officials to propose increasing penalties for drug and alcohol use in state prisons. 

The proposed regulations must go through a review process before they take effect, including a public hearing next month. 

A first positive test for drug use would cost inmates 90 days' pay from work assignments. However, inmates are paid only pennies an hour. 

The department also plans to standardize its mandatory drug testing across prisons. Officials say more stringent penalties would increase prison safety and help inmates complete substance abuse treatment programs. 

Nearly 23 percent of inmates tested positive for illegal drugs in a screening of one quarter of the population.

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