Drug dogs sweep Hamilton County Justice Center - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Drug dogs sweep Hamilton County Justice Center

Dogs were brought in to sweep the jail Monday morning around 8 a.m. (FOX19/M.Buckingham) Dogs were brought in to sweep the jail Monday morning around 8 a.m. (FOX19/M.Buckingham)
CINCINNATI (FOX19) -

Ten K-9 units swept the Hamilton County Justice Center on Monday as part of an attempt to combat drug use inside the facility.

The crackdown comes after inmate Daniel Davis died from a heroin overdose in September. Jail officials said it was unclear how Davis, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, got the heroin inside.

“We are doing everything I believe to be humanly possible to combat this problem,” said Chief Deputy Mark Schoonover in a press conference after the sweep.

Sheriff Jim Neil mandated four new objectives to find and to prevent contraband within the jail. They include extra sheriff's deputies at the jail intake, random drug searches and a body scanning machine, officials said.

Neil said the $250,000 body scanner recently revealed an inmate had swallowed balloons of heroin in order to transport the drug inside the jail.

“They actually become more desperate. But it becomes more difficult. You can't just go to your local dealer and buy, now you are in jail,” said Scnoonover.

Drug dogs from across the county assisted in the sweep before the press conference. Officials say they found marijuana concealed in an inmate's waistband during the search. 

Despite all the efforts, inmates tell FOX19 NOW if you want to get drugs inside this building, you can find a way to do it.

"I personally have done percocets, crack cocaine, smoked marijuana and cigarettes and they've all been brought in by inmates,” said one former inmate who spoke with FOX19 NOW on the condition we conceal his identity.

He admits he is addicted to heroin and has been incarcerated at least half a dozen times, but says getting a fix on the inside wasn't as difficult as you might think.

"It's easier to get it in the jail than out on the streets. You just trade commissary items, your shoes, whatever you got. If the inmates don't have drug charges, they don't strip search them. The officers are not trained to look at the X-Rays,” he said.

Hamilton County Justice Center has the only machine in the state that takes complete body scans of every inmate except pregnant women as they enter the facility.

Inmates tell FOX19 NOW they have been able to get drugs as trustees or porters because they are not always searched by the correctional officers when they come back to the jail. Major Charlene McGuffey, the head of the Hamilton County Justice Center says they are using every option they have available to combat the drug issue and are successful far more times than the public realizes.

"Can I say that with 100% certainty we find every drug? I can tell you that we find anything that we possibly can through human mechanism, through machine, through dog, we are going to find it,” said McGuffey. “We literally have done that. Saved people's lives because we've found something that they were going to ingest or maybe try to commit suicide with and we have intervened successfully and that happens a lot more than the public knows."

McGuffey says the K9s may have found more drugs during the sweep, but inmates could easily flush those drugs down the toilet provided in their cell when they heard the dogs coming.

Jail officials say the K9s are there not only there to find controlled substances but serve as a reminder that when it comes to illegal substances inside this building, they are always watching.

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