OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – Records show 14 Oklahoma County Detention Center inmates have died this year and after receiving seven of their toxicology reports, a fourth are said to be dead because of a fentanyl overdose.
Revas was booked into the detention center March 23 and was found unresponsive in his cell on March 28.
Shaw was booked into the detention center in May 2021 and was found unresponsive in his cell on February 13.
Bishop was booked into the detention center June 2021 and was found unresponsive in his cell January 12.
Each of those deaths are listed as an “accident” on their toxicology report.
Edmond physician, Dr. Melinda Cail told News 4 fentanyl administered through an IV can clear someone’s system in as little as an hour. If it’s administered through a patch, it can remain in someone’s system for up to 96 hours.
All five inmates were incarcerated beyond that time frame though, posing the question of how those drugs made it inside the jail.
“Contraband enters facilities in several ways. The main ways are through, arrestees, contractors’ employees and people visiting detainees. Additionally, detainees have been known to break the bricks on exterior walls and drop some sort of string or sheet to the ground, where an accomplice would tie contraband to the string. We’ve been very vigilant in watching and spotting when a new hole opens, and we have largely eliminated this method,” explained the Oklahoma County Detention Center Public Information Officer, Mark Opgrande.
Since July 2020, Opgrande said the jail has investigated 11 contraband case involving staff and contractors, resulting in nine arrests.
On May 5, a detention officer was arrested for attempting to smuggle in mobile phones, tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
A detainee was also “arrested” for “trying to smuggle contraband into the jail. We received intel the person was intentionally getting arrested for the purpose of smuggling in contraband,” according to Opgrande.
Five contract workers, including four who were suspected of attempting to smuggle contraband have also been arrested in the last two years.
The latest was a contract nurse in October 2021 who was arrested under suspicion of attempting to smuggle contraband.
“Contraband has been an ongoing problem in jails and prisons all over the county for years. The Oklahoma County Jail is no exception,” added Opgrande.
The Oklahoma County Detention Center has implemented policies over the years to combat contraband entering the facility.
“The facility utilizes a full pat-down process to search incoming detainees, and we have a questionnaire we give arrestees and officers to determine if an arrestee has an issue with drugs and needs further medical attention. We also put arrestees through our body scanner to determine if they have anything suspicious hidden on or inside their person,” explained Opgrande.
In the two months before the installation of the body scanner, the detention center had 23 detainees overdose on narcotics. In the three months since installation of the body scanner, they’ve still had 11.
“The scanner detected a foreign substance inside of 53 detainees since installation in May. The majority were refused entry and sent to the hospital for further check,” said Opgrande.
According to Opgrande, all staff and contractors are subjected to random searches when they enter the facility.
This includes a full pat down and a search of the items employees are bringing in.
“Our investigators rely on intel from inside and outside the facility to conduct investigations of staff and detainees suspected of hiding or smuggling contraband. A part of detention officer training deals with how to spot contraband and ethics training on how to be a part of the solution and not the problem,” he added.
Opgrande told KFOR fentanyl is fairly new when it comes to contraband in the jail, saying it only take two milligrams of fentanyl to be fatal.
“That little of an amount can be hard to detect, so our detention officers must be very diligent in their searches. We also partner with outside agencies, such as the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to share intel and learn the latest ways to combat the issue. We have also provided detainees and staff with information posted throughout the facility to warn and inform them of the dangers of contraband, especially fentanyl,” stated Opgrande.
Opgrande said each in-custody death is reviewed and is “very intensive and detailed.”
He added each case is different, but those reviews determine what the jail needs to do prevent another death from happening or if there needs to be a new policy implemented.
“Some of the changes resulted in purchasing the body scanner and redesigning the intake process for detainees when they enter the facility,” according to Opgrande.
Opgrande told KFOR they are constantly seeking new ways, new technologies and new training to prevent contraband from entering the facility as well.
“One of the problems is, once we discover how contraband gets in and stop it, the groups that are bringing it in will change their tactics and find a new way. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse. But we will never give up our efforts to protect our staff and the people in our custody,” he stated.
News 4 has reached out to the Oklahoma County Detention Center Board of Trustees, but have only heard back from Vice-Chair, Ben Browne in which he declined an interview, saying he hasn’t read the toxicology report yet.
The toxicology reports KFOR has obtained have been sent to the Board of Trustees as of Tuesday morning.
News 4 has also reached out to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to see if there has ever been a formal investigation into the jail.
To the OSBI representative’s knowledge, there is no pending investigation nor has there ever been one.
That same representative saying to open an investigation, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office would need to request one.
KFOR reached out to the OCDA’s Office via email and phone call, but did not hear back.
Neither the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office or the Oklahoma City Police are able to investigate this issue either, as the detention center has their own set of in-house investigators.
The other seven toxicology reports have been requested through the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office, but their media team said it’ll take four to six months to complete those reports.
As soon as the reports are finished, the Examiner’s Office said they’ll send those to News 4.