3 Cook County Jail inmates overdose on heroin

FOX 32 News has learned that three prisoners at the Cook County Jail overdosed on heroin last week, and had to be given emergency shots of a life-saving drug.

Now, the sheriff's department believes it has identified the person who smuggled the heroin into the jail.

"They were lethargic and exhibiting signs of someone who was overdosing. And our staff was on it right away,” said Cook County Jail Director Cara Smith.

Smith says the close call happened last week in Division Two of the jail complex, a minimum security building that houses hundreds of inmates. Three of those prisoners snorted heroin and began to OD. All three were given emergency shots of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opiates.

One inmate was sent to Stroger Hospital and the others were sent to the jail's Cermak Health Center.

Jail officials say security footage shows a new inmate passing something to the men who became sick.

"There are, unfortunately, sometimes things can get through. In this case we believe this person was hiding the heroin in his genitals,” Smith said.

That suspect was originally arrested by Chicago police, who also apparently missed the drugs.

Assistant Executive Director Jeff Johnson showed FOX 32 the machine the sheriffs use to scan every inmate that comes into the jail, between 125 and 175 a day, which reveals far more detail than an airport scanner.

"Then we'll get the image that we have right over here, gives us a silhouette. And this way the officers can look at the silhouette, and if there's anything that triggers on the silhouette they're concerned about, then they'll talk to the individual,” Johnson said.

Officers can perform a pat down, but Sheriff Tom Dart has banned strip searches because of the risk of lawsuits.

Smith says this is the first time they're aware of that someone's been able to smuggle heroin into the jail complex, and certainly the first time in memory they've had heroin overdoses.

"This is a big jail. We have a lot of people coming through and occasionally there's gonna be these things that happen. And our reaction to it is what I think is important. These men are revived and are doing fine now,” Smith said.

Sheriff’s officials are now looking into possible charges against the inmate who smuggled in the heroin, but say that could be difficult. They’ve already conducted a review of security procedures.

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