OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — The nationwide opioid crisis has touched people from all walks of life. But it has become a serious issue behind bars, and is often the reason an inmate lands there in the first place.
"I think we get a lot of people at the detention center at the depth of their addiction. And I think sometimes the addiction itself leads to the behaviors that bring them to the detention center," said Greg Williams, the Administrator at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
Addiction behind bars is not a new concept. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates 65% of the U.S. prison population has an active substance abuse disorder. But the rapid rise in the opioid fentanyl has made the situation inside jails even worse.
"Almost all the drugs that we find are laced with fentanyl," said Williams. "Whether it's a pill or marijuana or tobacco. Just about every piece of contraband we find recently has been laced with fentanyl."
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Two inmates at the Oklahoma County Jail have died this year due to fentanyl overdoses. And while jail officials say they've upped their searches, added a body scanner and issued education materials to inmates, stopping the flow of drugs into prisons remains a major challenge.
"Attorneys, and police officers, staff, volunteers, contracted staff," said Williams. "So there's a lot of movement of people and supplies and mail and boxes and trash and just a lot of things coming from the detention center."
The Jail Administrator says cutting off the need for drugs is the best solution. But for those behind bars, getting treatment for addiction can be limited.
"Most prisons cannot afford to offer MAT programs or vivitrol or suboxone treatment, they cannot afford to offer these treatments to this population," said Toni Williams, a nurse practitioner with Landmark Recovery.
That's where groups like Landmark come in.
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"We partner with probation officers, we partner with drug courts, to provide treatment services to individuals once they leave the prison system," said Williams..
Not only does getting an inmate clean greatly reduce their risk of death, it also cuts the chances of them ending up back behind prison walls.
"Recidivism coming to the jail is a huge problem. And addiction is a big piece of that," said Williams, the jail Administrator.
He also stressed that, as a country, we need to start tackling addiction before it lands someone in jail. If you or a loved one is struggling, you can reach out to Landmark Recovery here.
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