Public deserves quick answers about jail OD’s

It was only weeks ago when Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe showcased his department’s new $118,000 taxpayer-funded technology that was supposed to keep drugs and other controlled substances out of Trumbull County Jail, but so far, the success rate has been dismal.

Since use of the jail’s newly installed body scanner began Sept. 15, at least five inmates have suffered what is believed to be drug overdoses inside the jail. Three inmates were hospitalized Sept. 24, and then last week, two more inmates were found unresponsive on the jail floor in an inmate pod. They were treated at St. Joseph Warren Hospital for suspected overdoses and have since been returned to the jail. All five survived after being revived using the opioid overdose antidote drug, Naloxone.

Immediately following the Sept. 24 incident, Monroe’s Chief Deputy Joseph Dragovich said the pod where the three inmates had been housed was the subject to an intensive search, and suspected opioids were found that were shipped to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab for testing. He described it as an amount that “would have been a good bust on the streets.”

Dragovich also said deputies were investigating how the drugs got into the jail. Apparently, that investigation wasn’t successful because just about a week later another two inmates overdosed in the jail.

This time, jail officials said they are conducting an internal investigation because it was possible a corrections officer failed to follow protocol in the booking process.

The whole situation is both curious and embarrassing because the incidents occurred after Monroe lobbied commissioners for the purchase of the expensive technology that he argued would aid in his responsibility to keep inmates safe. The situation also could be very costly if an inmate were to die of an overdose inside the jail or if legal action was pursued by any of the overdose victims.

While Monroe was seeking funding for the machine, he told us that keeping inmates safe sometimes means even protecting them from themselves. The airport-style x-ray scanner was to provide a legal way to make sure people aren’t concealing contraband without conducting invasive body cavity searches.

We agreed with his assessment and, considering an April 25 overdose involving a Trumbull County Jail inmate, we even used this space to support the purchase.

The task of protecting those inmates also includes pursuing answers to hard questions that we expect the sheriff to be raising with great urgency. We hope the questions he is asking delve deeply into the problem, including whether the drugs got past members of the sheriff’s office staff by accident, which would imply ineptitude, or by intention, which would imply criminal intent.

Either way, constituents and inmates deserve to feel confident that contraband like drugs — or other unsafe items like weapons — are not getting into the jail. It’s up to Monroe to guarantee that.