Three inmates overdose at Franklin County Jail; fourth inmate suspected of drug smuggling

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Mo. - An inmate in the Franklin County Jail could face drug distribution charges after three other inmates overdosed on opioids she allegedly smuggled into the facility. There’s technology that could help prevent jail smuggling, but it’s not cheap.

The incident happened early Wednesday morning as three female inmates were rushed to Mercy Hospital in Washington. They all survived the overdose and were returned to the jail.

“Actually, our detention deputies do a great job,” said Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton.

So how did the drug end up behind bars? The sheriff said the suspect was searched but she hid the opioids in a body cavity.

“Under Missouri law, you just can’t do body cavity searches on people that come in.”

Jails are not prisons. To do such a search, authorities have to have probable cause and get a judge to sign off on a search warrant, then medical officials conduct the search.

“Normally, in the course of action, we transfer to a hospital,” Pelton said.

Some jails are purchasing security devices that checks a suspect’s entire body. No court order is needed and it’s not physically invasive. Jefferson County is spending $140,000 on one of the security machines.

EMT Tracy Ingle has handled many overdose cases. She thinks the security device would be good for the jail.

“The epidemic in this county is terrible, so whatever we can do to try to protect … the other inmates would be a good thing,” she said.

Franklin County citizens recently passed a tax increase. Part of the money is going for a jail expansion and the sheriff is considering adding one of the security machines to the facility.

“We’re hoping it’s on the horizon in the future,” Pelton said.

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