Canyon County Wants to Spent $200,000 COVID–19 Money to Buy Jail X-ray for Drugs

Throughout the legislative session, discussions about bringing a medical marijuana program to Idaho were often met with a slippery slope argument that it would inexorably lead to decriminalization of all drugs, as has happened in Oregon.

Here’s a story from Canyon County that illustrates why some states are considering ending the practice of arresting and locking up people who have a drug dependency issue.

The issue of drug smuggling at the Canyon County jail turned deadly last December, leading to a renewed push from the sheriff’s office to find a solution.

Two inmates at the county jail in Caldwell have overdosed in the past four months while smuggling in drugs. One of the women survived, but the other died at a local hospital.

The overdoses happen because people put drugs in plastic baggies and hide them in body cavities or swallow them. The baggies start to deteriorate when inside the body and the drugs are released into the bloodstream, Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said.

See, that’s the thing about being addicted to powerful narcotics and alcohol. Unlike marijuana, they compel their users to take incredible risks to keep that fix coming.

The sheriff’s office is trying to address the problem with a body scanner X-ray machine. The county may start accepting bids for a machine for the jail soon. The machine, which basically looks like the TSA machines at the airports, Donahue said, would be used to find contraband hidden in body cavities during the booking process.

During the booking process, deputies pat suspects down through one layer of clothing. If the detainees are not bonded out of the jail, the deputies do a more intense search when individuals take off their clothes and before they are asked to put on the jail uniform.

That’s right, it’s not enough for armed agents of the state to pat you down all over your body, then later put on exam gloves and prod their fingers in your mouth, anus, and if so equipped, vagina. Now they want to run you through an x-ray scanner.

There has been some pushback from Canyon County elected officials about the cost of the requested X-ray machine. Donahue said the machine costs about $200,000.

There is a potential option to use federal COVID-19 funding to purchase the scanner, Donahue said. He said when checking individuals for drugs or paraphernalia, deputies often must get close to people and have them cough or breath deeply, potentially putting them at risk for the virus.

Or, perhaps, we could use that funding to purchase vaccines and vaccinate people we’re putting together in close contact behind bars? Or, better yet, not put people behind bars just because we caught them with the drugs they are addicted to?

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office purchased a body scanner machine for its jail in 2019. The scanner has provided the department with an “effective (way) to keep drugs out of the jail,” the office’s spokesman Patrick Orr said in an email.

The office also purchased a mail scanner because it found that people were mailing strips of suboxone, a drug that’s often used to treat opioid addiction but can give someone a similar high to an opioid if taken in large doses.

Our jails have a problem with people overdosing on opioids. Let’s buy another machine to scan their mail so we can intercept suboxone, something the opioid users in prison can use to counteract an opioid overdose so they don’t die.

Can you get high on Suboxone? Yes, but compared to heroin, OxyContin, or fentanyl, you’re talking the difference between a Coors Light and cognac, Bacardi 151, and Everclear. Its use among opioid addicts is not to catch a high, but rather to avoid the low—withdrawal from opioids that creates such unbearable sickness the user needs to get a fix—or to avoid death altogether. Suboxone immediately counters the effects of an opiate overdose. It will literally save the life of an overdose victim.

This is the logic of the War on Drugs. Just say no. And if you won’t say no, we’ll force you to say no. And if you still won’t say no, we’ll test your urine to force you to say no. And if you still won’t say no, we’ll strip you, sexually assault you, and cage you to force you to say no. And if you still won’t say no, we’ll remove all access to medical treatment that will save your life if you still won’t say no. If you don’t heed our advice that using drugs can kill you, then we will see to it that using drugs will kill you.


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