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Prayer card used in attempt to smuggle drugs into MCI-Concord

Photos shared by the Department of Corrections show a prayer card that had been repurposed to smuggle drugs into the MCI-Concord facility.

Mass. DOC

Photos shared by the Department of Corrections show a prayer card that had been repurposed to smuggle drugs into the MCI-Concord facility.

The laminated card offered “a prayer of comfort” and had a picture of Jesus Christ on the front, his hand hovering above a golden chalice.

But inside the prayer card was something far from spiritual — it contained more than a dozen strips of the narcotic Suboxone.

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On Thursday, the state Department of Corrections posted a picture of the plastic card and orange strips of Suboxone to Facebook. The department said it discovered the contents of the card before it worked its way into the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Concord, or MCI-Concord, a medium-security facility for convicted male inmates.

“If you’ve ever wondered how inmates smuggle in drugs to prison, here is yet another way that officers at MCI-Concord discovered,” the department wrote.

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Officials said the Suboxone strips, which look like small, orange sticky notes, are typically cut up into even smaller pieces and then sold behind the prison walls for up to $100 each.

The strips were confiscated from an inmate’s incoming mail, on Oct. 10.

Chris Fallon, assistant deputy commissioner of communications for the department, said Suboxone is one of the most smuggled drugs into prisons. He said inmates are “always coming up with creative ways” to try to get their hands on the drug.

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“We recently had a racquet ball thrown over the wall at one of our prisons and it was loaded with it,” he said. “Everytime we find out how they’re bringing it in, they come up with new methods.”

He said the money exchange goes on outside the walls, where family members or friends will transfer money between two inmates’ accounts.

To stop these transactions, police dogs come in and sniff the mail. He said the animals are typically good at picking up Suboxone. Prison employees also check the contents of the mail, as they did with the prayer card.

Suboxone, which is considered a Schedule III narcotic under federal law, is used as a painkiller to treat opioid addiction, in part by relieving the symptoms of withdrawal.

The drug is distributed to patients by doctors at clinics, which are licensed by the state Department of Public Health. The clinics make money by charging patients and their health insurance providers.

There have been issues of corruption within the industry in the past.

In September, for example, a doctor who owns a Dorchester clinic was indicted for allegedly demanding patients pay out of pocket for the drug, even though it’s covered by the state’s Medicaid program.

Suboxone is one of the first medications that was approved for office-based treatment of opioid addiction, under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, according to the Federal Drug Administration’s website. Use of the drug “produces dependence of the opiate type.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Milton J. Valencia of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
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