INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The private operator of the short-staffed and troubled Marion County Jail II has announced security changes after a weekend raid by dozens of sheriff’s deputies.
Corrections Corporation of America Spokesman Jonathan Burns issued a statement that read in part, “Recent incidents at Marion County Jail II involving possible drug overdoses by inmates are stark reminders of the potential dangers of contraband.”
Offender Nicholas Grant died after swallowing a balloon containing heroin during a shakedown at the facility at 730 East Washington Street last Friday night.
Sheriff John Layton said he ordered the raid after becoming aware of a potential drug problem inside the facility last week.
CBS4 began documenting potential heroin overdoses of inmates in late September and another source indicates drug trafficking exploded inside the jail in the aftermath of a hiring blitz this summer as turnover plagued the site.
“CCA has a zero-tolerance policy for contraband,” said Warden Jeff Conway in the prepared statement, “and we have taken added measures to enhance detection and prevention efforts.”
CCA listed those efforts as, “mobilizing Special Operations Response Teams and two K-9 contraband detection teams, as well as teams with specialized equipment and training in the detection of contraband communications devices, and physical plant enhancements to limit inmate access to external windows.”
One former corrections officer told CBS4 about one way drugs were being smuggled in.
“While I was there there was drugs coming in through the window,” said Gabe Frost, a military veteran who quit his job at Jail II after just two months because he found it a more dangerous environment than his two tours in Iraq. “I know the inmates have a way of cutting holes in the windows. The windows on CCA are industry standard. With personal hygiene products they can smear it on the glass and then when the sun beats on it, it can heat it up to where it can be easily picked out with a paperclip like putty.”
Another source said inmates gouged holes in windows with sharp devices, blades and tools.
Frost said CCA staff was very adept at spotting the smuggling operations on surveillance cameras and tracking down the men and women sending the drugs into the jail.
The ex-officer said CCA would not have to look far for the people actually bringing drugs into the jail.
“While I was there we had staff coming in from other facilities to assist,” said Frost about CCA transfers from Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee. “I know that drugs were snuck in then. Once the warden found out, those employees were immediately dismissed, they were sent back to their normal facility for terminations.”
Another source was drug use was rampant and well known to jail management.
Jail II officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Sheriff Layton said that while he had been pleased with CCA’s operation of Jail II during the last eight years, “It’s kind of been an infestation of what’s been going on over there. Things have gone downhill.”
Layton vowed to spare no one, staff, offenders or their friends, in his search of drug smugglers in the jail under his authority.
“Nobody is out of the realm of suspicion at this point,” he said. “Someone is going to go to jail over this, being the same jail they were doing these kinds of things within.”
Presumably Layton meant any CCA employees found trafficking with inmates or offenders who are already incarcerated at Jail II.
CCA currently owns or operates 74 correction, detention and reentry facilities across the country.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced it would cease CCA operations at 13 of its federal prison sites citing inadequate performance.
CCA is paid $10 million a year to operate Jail II and Layton said when the ten-year contract concludes at the end of 2017, the Tennessee-based company will have no role in the new Marion County Jail configuration being contemplated by Mayor Joe Hogsett.