WASHINGTON – The Peace Corps has a growing problem with drug use by its volunteers that has caused 152 to be removed from their posts over the past three years, according to a new report by the corps’ inspector general.
One volunteer died as result of drug use during that period and seven others were arrested by foreign law-enforcement officials. One volunteer was sentenced to six months in prison for drug trafficking, although the person was released after 26 days.
“Peace Corps’ efforts to address volunteer drug use have been insufficient, and that drug use continues to pose a serious risk to the integrity and reputation of the Peace Corps,” the report concludes.
Leadership of the Peace Corps, which has more than 7,000 volunteers working on training and service missions in 60 countries, issued a statement saying it welcomed the report.
“Peace Corps has a zero tolerance drug use policy for volunteers. Peace Corps is carefully reviewing the report and its recommendations and will issue a formal response to the Inspector General," the statement said.
The report by Inspector General Kathy Buller to Corps Director Jody Olsen notes that a similar report found 25 cases of drug use by volunteers from 2012 to 2015.
The separation of the 152 volunteers during the most recent three years cost the loss of 117 potential years of service and an estimated $482,000 in taxpayer dollars was wasted on training.
Investigators found that more than two-thirds of the volunteers who were removed since 2015 had used marijuana. Other cases involved the use of cocaine, LSD, heroin, hashish and other drugs.
The report found problems with the reporting system to track the number of volunteers removed for drug use and with corps’ policies and procedures to deal with the issue.
The report recommends corps leadership:
► Study whether to implement drug testing when use is suspected.
► Review and possibly lower the standard used to confirm drug use from the current “clear and convincing” standard to one of a “preponderance of evidence.”
► Improve the process for documenting cases where volunteers are let go for drug use.
► Provide training to volunteers on the risks of drug use.
“The agency needs to re-examine its strategy," the report concludes.