Officials consider X-ray machine as concern about inmate trafficking grows

A growing concern about what inmates are bringing into the county jail has led officials to look at solutions, including a $200,000 X-ray machine.

This week, correction officers found multiple prescription pills when searching an inmate who had turned herself into the Johnson County jail on a warrant.

Amanda Weliever, 37, of Indianapolis, had been facing a misdemeanor charge but could now face a felony charge of trafficking with an inmate, Sheriff Doug Cox said.

Weliever turned herself into the jail at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday on a warrant for failure to appear in court. A corrections officer searched her, which is typical protocol, Cox said.

During the search, the jail officer saw that Weliever had been trying to hide prescription pills on her body. Weliever had nine prescription pills, including anxiety and pain medication, according to the sheriff’s office report.

Weliever was arrested on an additional charge of possession of a controlled substance, and more charges could be added, Cox said. The prosecutor will decide what, if any, charges should be filed. For now, Weliever, 1805 S. Denny St., is being held at the jail without bond.

The practice of trying to smuggle items into jails, such as drugs or cellphones, is becoming more and more common locally and across the state and nation, Cox said.

And it is concerning for multiple reasons, he said.

One concern is the safety of the inmate trying to bring the items into the jail. If that person accidentally overdoses on the drugs while trying to smuggle them in, they could become ill or die. That would also lead to an investigation of what caused their death, which could take months to resolve, Cox said.

“We get questions about why people die in jail. This is the type of stuff we see,” Cox said.

Another concern is that the inmate could give those drugs to other inmates within the jail, putting them at risk, he said.

The jail recently had to take more than one inmate to the hospital when they ingested drugs brought in by someone, Cox said.

“It’s dangerous all around, for the inmate who brought it in and the others around them,” Cox said.

Those concerns are why Johnson County and others have looked into added security measures that would look for items inmates are trying to bring in.

Recently, the sheriff’s office brought in a company that makes X-ray machines specifically for that purpose. Hamilton County uses the machines, Cox said.

The price is high: about $200,000. And the jail doesn’t have room for it because they would need space for the machine and the required area around it to protect others inside the jail from radiation from the machine, he said.

But if the jail is expanded in the future, that could be added, Cox said.

“That is something that in the future most jails will have. Right now, we can’t afford it, and we don’t have the space,” Cox said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.