SOUTHERN COLORADO — This week, the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office reported five people were accused of trying to smuggle drugs into the Pueblo County Jail through a pair of shoes. News 5 took a closer look at how people sneak drugs into a jail, and what those facilities can do to try and prevent it.
A woman living in Colorado Springs reached out to News 5 about drug usage in jail. She said she has been to a handful of correctional facilities in her life, but said out of all of them, she saw the most drugs in the Fremont County Jail. "Every day that someone new came in there was more and more drugs being brought in... It's more there than I've seen on the streets to be honest," said Elkay Carmack, who spent time at the Fremont County Jail this year while she was in their Jail Based Treatment program. Carmack said that program saved her life and helped her get clean, and she wants to see the same for others in the jail.
Carmack also spoke about her good friend that is currently in the Fremont County Jail, and said she recently overdosed. News 5 confirmed with Fremont County Sheriff that there were two inmates who overdosed, and four people charged with introducing contraband related to the incident. Introduction to contraband is a felony charge. "It's going to be a problem here because there is a piece of technology that we do not have, that would make it more difficult for inmates to smuggle in contraband, specifically drugs," said Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper.
The piece of equipment Fremont County Jail does not have is a body scanner, like what can be found at airport security. "Other than physically having them remove their clothes, open their mouth, look at the soles of their feet, that would be the extent of what we currently have available," said Sheriff Cooper. Sheriff Cooper also said they average around 175 inmates normally.
Sheriff Cooper said they have three times the number of staff working in the detention facility when compared to those on patrol. The Sheriff said he would still like to secure a body scanner, but they are expensive and require training, plus they would have to find room in the Fremont County Jail for the scanner. Sheriff Cooper said if they could get the money somehow, he would want to invest in a body scanner. "Grants, those are always beneficial. Cost-savings within this facility, if there's a way that I can find it in house, then that would be my preference," said Sheriff Cooper.
Those with the El Paso County Jail said they have had the body scanning technology for a few years, but just bought a new machine two years ago called a SecurPASS. "They [people being booked into jail] step up on the scanner, they remain motionless, and the scanner actually moves and then takes kind of a picture of your insides, and then one of our security techs looks for anomalies that might be of interest to us," said Lieutenant Charles Kull of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
Lt. Kull said the El Paso County Jail has anywhere from 1,400 to 1,700 inmates on any given day. "No matter how many security measures you put in place, we have to remember that our clientele here, the citizens that we have housed at the jail, they're professionals at their craft as well," said Lt. Kull.
News 5 spoke with a representative of the Bureau of Justice Statistics who said their report about mortality in local jails from 2000-2014 is the most recent data they have gathered on the topic. The report claimed the death rate for drug or alcohol intoxication among inmates increased from 2013 to 2014.
In Pueblo County, the Sheriff's Office said they are always on guard against new methods of sneaking drugs into jail. "It happens all the time, it happens through our mail, through people entering our facility, people trying to bring things into our facility," said Shelley Bryant, a Captain of Security from the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office.
Captain Bryant said working on relationships with inmates could help detect drugs more quickly. "We're getting better on detecting it, but it's never going to be a fail safe, there's always going to be something that gets in," said Captain Bryant.
Those with the El Paso County Jail said since inmates are not usually in jail for a very long time, they hope to set them up with programs once they leave the jail to try and get clean.