Jack Luikart

A career law enforcement officer is stepping up West Virginia’s crackdown on illegal drugs in its prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities, Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy announced Thursday.

Sandy has named Jack Luikart as the department’s Director of Correctional Substance Abuse Control. Luikart will target the smuggling of contraband narcotics, help train correctional officers and staff on drug prevention and investigations, and work directly with young adult inmates and high-risk juveniles, among other roles.

Luikart retired in February from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department after 30 years of law enforcement service. For much of that career, Luikart focused on drug crime. He was repeatedly assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, including as group supervisor of the Charleston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HITDA) Task Force from August 2015 until his retirement. He also commanded the Putnam County office of the multi-county, multi-agency Metro Drug Unit for nearly a decade.

“We are very fortunate to be able to add Jack to our team,” said Deputy Secretary Thom Kirk. “His vast experience with drug enforcement coupled with his passion to protect and preserve the youth in this state against the devastating effects of drug abuse makes him an ideal fit in our global plan to fight drugs throughout West Virginia. I know of no one more respected by law enforcement and no one more knowledgeable about our drug problems than Jack. The outstanding work he has done for Putnam and surrounding counties can now be applied to the entire state of West Virginia. We are excited about his decision to continue to assist his state.”

West Virginia’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety includes the Division of Corrections, the Regional Jail Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services. These agencies operate 26 facilities among them that house nearly 11,000 adult inmates and around 280 youths.

The menace of contraband smuggling is long-standing, ever-present and rapidly evolving. Thwarting this danger to public safety is particularly critical as the ongoing opioid crisis challenges correctional facilities nationwide. The continuing threat of funding cuts, spending freezes and budget instability by the Legislature has complicated West Virginia’s situation. Among other measures, West Virginia recently started providing only copies of non-lawyer mail to inmates after repeatedly finding drugs hidden in the original letters, photos and envelopes.

Luikart will coordinate such efforts while developing new strategies. He will also adapt a program he developed while in law enforcement that aims to educate at-risk youth and young adults regarding the devastating effects of substance abuse.

“I look forward to working with our corrections personnel to develop and implement strategies to combat the smuggling of contraband into our facilities, as well as to providing training and personal experience to our correctional officers to assist them in their efforts,” Luikart said. “I also look forward to working with our at-risk youth at our juvenile facilities and our high schools to provide them with true facts in regard to the consequences of drug abuse. Working together, we can help to curb the cycle of drug abuse in our state.”

Luikart’s focus will complement West Virginia’s push to increase substance abuse treatment and recovery programs for offenders. These include the prison-based Residential Substance Abuse Treatment units, which expanded to the regional jail system last year. Through its widely praised Justice Reinvestment Initiative, West Virginia awards grants to health care providers who offer community-based inpatient and intensive outpatient services to offenders returning to society.

Luikart took up his post earlier this month. The position is possible through unfilled vacancies in Corrections. All correctional agencies will contribute toward his salary to keep the department within its current personnel budget.