I-Team: More detoxing from narcotics in jail, prison

The heavy steel door closes in the medical wing of the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction in Dartmouth.

Inmates maybe locked up and off the streets, but problems beyond the bars and barbed wire are directly impacting lives on the inside.

"We're seeing a dramatic uptick of people we're detoxing off of drugs," said Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson.

Hodgson said heroin is the drug of choice. It's cheaper than alcohol and marijuana and it's available even in prison or jail.

"Our staff is pretty good about strip searches and things like that, but you can only detect so far. To have that drive to want to get it, even in prisons, tells you how serious this problem really is," Hodgson said.

One inmate has already overdosed on narcotics in 2014 at the Dartmouth jail. His life was saved.

There has been a dramatic spike in heroin addicted inmates.

In 2012, the facility detoxed 192 inmates. In 2013, that number increased 390 percent to 747.

"How much worse it must be on the street?" Hodgson said. "Because we're only seeing people who are locked up."

The costs of detox are also on the rise. Inmates need more attention, sometimes isolation in the jail's medical wing.

Bristol County does not treat opiate-addicted inmates with prescribed narcotics like Methadone or Suboxone. But Hodgson has discussed bringing in the nasal spray Narcan which quickly reverses an overdose. It's also another cost in an already strained budget.

At the Adult Correctional Institutions in Rhode Island, the I-Team learned one inmate overdose this year and survived.

Another one did not. He died a day after arriving at the ACI.

"He had ingested, unknown to us, a fair amount of opiates, the medical examiner thought was heroin," said Dr. Fred Vohr, the medical program director for the Department of Corrections.

At the ACI, 60 percent to 80 percent of the inmate population has an issue with substance abuse, according to officials.

"Our population reflects the community. We can assume we have people here who have opiate issues. Unfortunately, we do not track drugs of abuse as folks come in here," said substance abuse coordinator Lauranne Howard.

While the numbers aren't tracked, the Department of Corrections told the I-Team the heroin epidemic is real, although many officials expected to see a more significant problem.

Some inmates are prescribed methadone to withdraw from an addiction.

Correctional officers have not been trained with the nasal spray Narcan but nurses have. It hasn't been used.

In the four months of tracking, Rhode Island Department of Health officials confirm 91 overdose apparent deaths in 2014.

"This is really indicative of a trend that really ought to be scaring every American about where our society is going and the fact we really got to do something about this," Hodgson said.

For the sheriff, that solution requires national resources to attack the drug dealers and educate children.