Sheriff’s office warns of increase in drug overdoses inside Marion County Jail

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is sending a warning after a staggering increase in reported overdoses and inmates smuggling drugs inside the jail.

Jail Commander, Col. James Martin, said they started noticing an increase in inmates overdosing on drugs inside the jail last year. He said the problem is now 10 times worse than last year.

Col. Martin said many inmates are arrested and then ingest drugs before going to the jail, so they aren’t caught with illegal substances. Then, the inmates overdose inside the jail. Since July, jail workers have administered 27 doses of Naloxone.

“We’re first starting to see our main problem areas within the first few hours of custody,” Col. Martin said.

The sheriff’s office noted multiple different instances this month of inmates either overdosing on drugs inside the jail or attempting to smuggle drugs into the jail.

On August 10, a man was brought to the Arrestee Processing Center and immediately rushed to the hospital for an elevated heart rate. Hours later, he died. During an autopsy, several ruptured plastic bags containing cocaine were found in his stomach.

On August 14, an inmate was found to have heroin or cocaine hidden inside his body. He removed it, placed it in his mouth, and swallowed it. He was taken to the hospital and is okay.

On August 18, a man was taken to the hospital for a suspected OxyContin and alcohol overdose. It happened as he was brought to the Arrestee Processing Center.

On August 21, an inmate was brought to the hospital for heart attack symptoms. During a search, a Marion County Sheriff’s Office K9 officer found nine grams of heroin and three suboxone strips hidden inside his body.

“The potential for the collateral damage for that if you get a little drugs in here, it’s definitely a concern. One person could be responsible for several overdoses,” Col. Martin said.

Col. Martin said he receives multiple calls from concerned loved ones weekly.

“A lot of statements from these loved ones were, ‘I’m glad they’re in your jail, because now I don’t have to worry. I can sleep better at night because I’m not worrying about the things they’re doing to get these drugs.’ Unfortunately, they’re kind of lost with what to do now.”

Now, the sheriff’s office is working to find solutions to the problem including getting additional K9 officers. They’re also looking into purchasing a body scanner.

“Our inmates that come into this facility, they know we don’t have a body scanner, especially the people that come in and out. They know our policies. They’re best to know if they’re going to get drugs into the facility, of how,” Col. Martin said.

The sheriff’s office also recently implemented a detox unit. Inmates actively withdrawing from drugs or alcohol are paired with a mentor. The mentor is an inmate who has gone through the detox program.

Jail leaders said a body scanner could cost up to $200,000. The sheriff’s office is urging state and local leaders to divert some of the states projected surplus to help counties struggling with the addiction crisis.

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