Editorial: Clean up Taos County jail, again

Posted 7/27/18

Taos County needs to get its jail in order. Doing so will be no small task, even if it is a small detention center.

The recent arrest of two detention center officers for allegedly selling …

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Editorial: Clean up Taos County jail, again

Posted

Taos County needs to get its jail in order. Doing so will be no small task, even if it is a small detention center.

The recent arrest of two detention center officers for allegedly selling contraband and the lawsuit filed Monday against the county related to the overdose death of an inmate in 2016 are two signs of a facility with deep problems.

The details of why the two officers were arrested remains sealed by Taos District Court.

But allegations in the lawsuit filed by the family of Jonathan Bourg, as you can read in John Miller’s story this week, detail a history of drug running at the jail.

This is not the first time the jail has had problems.  And Taos County’s detention center is certainly not the only jail facing problems with keeping drugs out and preventing detainees from overdosing while behind bars.

Suboxone strips can be smuggled in via mail. Drugs have been sprayed on letters and sent to inmates. The A&E documentary series “60 Days In” follows volunteers who go undercover in two jails and detail the creative ways inmates obtain drugs and get high inside, such as mixing melted candy, coffee and prescription drugs.

The Taos County jail has had at least five inmates overdose in the last two and a half years, one of whom, Bourg, died.

Again, it is one of many county jails that struggle to prevent such incidents. In Tennessee’s Sumner County Jail, five women overdosed on heroin in April. Four male inmates in New Jersey’s Cumberland County jail overdosed in October 2017. The list is endless.

How many total inmates in New Mexico county jails have died of overdose deaths while in custody? That’s unknown according to a 2017 report to the state legislature on treating addicted inmates.

The ease with which detainees in the Taos County jail obtain drugs while inside adds to the problems of halting a wildfire-like spread of addiction through all the county’s communities. The county lacks short- and long-term treatment facilities to offer any help to addicts. The jail apparently just makes it easier for them to stay hooked.

What is the answer?

First, treatment centers. It is way past time to find the funding, get them open and keep them open.

Second, find stalwart jail guards and staff who won’t help bring drugs into the facility and make sure they are paid enough they aren’t enticed to deal dope on the side to make extra money.

Third, maybe an expensive, but potentially effective piece of equipment.

A detention center in Santa Rosa County, Florida that is battling a constant influx of smuggled drugs has gone so far as to invest recently in a high-tech body scanner, similar to those used at airports, to catch prisoners and visitors trying to smuggle in drugs. The $180,000 price tag was paid through inmate welfare funds, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

“That scanner is keeping all the drugs out of the jail, which is great because they can’t get anything in there. It keeps them healthy and we don’t have to worry about overdoses,” Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson told the newspaper.

Something to think about, Taos County Commissioners.

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