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Jefferson County Jail Ongoing Efforts to Prevent Overdoses

22 Nov 2023, Uncategorized, by

The struggle against drug overdoses persists in Jefferson County jail, prompting innovative measures to enhance security and curb incidents.

Jefferson County Jail Ongoing Efforts to Prevent Overdoses - Inmate Lookup

In 2021, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department grappled with a drug problem within the Jefferson County jail.

According to Grant Bissell, spokesman for the sheriff’s department, it prompted the initiation of official tracking of inmate overdoses for the first time. During that year, the jail, with a population typically ranging from 244 to over 300, recorded six overdoses.

Bissel stated that the pervasive issue involved the ease it takes to conceal fentanyl, as individuals ingeniously hid pills beneath toenails or within tightly braided hair, posing a significant challenge to detection and potentially causing harm within the jail.

This struggle to combat drug infiltration is not unique to Jefferson County jail, as evident from the eight suspected overdoses reported at the City Justice Center in downtown St. Louis within a month. The city jail’s population is more than twice that of Jefferson County.

According to a report, the City Justice Center‘s Jail Commissioner, Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah, refrained from disclosing the overdose figures, citing safety concerns, leading to increased calls from activists for her removal.

To address the escalating issue of overdoses, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department implemented strategic measures, resulting in a notable reduction in overdoses—from six in 2021 to just one in 2022 and two in the current year.

Bissell credited the reduction in cases to the introduction of a $125,000 body scanner as instrumental in detecting concealed illegal substances. Additional preventive measures included modifying inmate mail protocols and intensifying cell searches.

The new mail protocol, born out of necessity, aimed to counteract drug-laced papers by requiring inmates to open their mail in front of a guard. The guard, in turn, makes photocopies of the original documents, allowing inmates to retain only the copies, with the originals stored alongside their personal belongings outside their cells.

Bissell acknowledged the anxiety among inmates regarding the stricter mail procedures but emphasized that such concerns indicate improved security measures within the jail, reflecting the department’s commitment to curbing drug-related incidents.