CINCINNATI — Drug-sniffing dogs swept the Justice Center from top to bottom Wednesday in what the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office calls an ongoing battle to keep drugs out of the hands of jail inmates.
“Hit each floor and each pod area at the same time. The reason is we want the inmates to be surprised by it,” said Dave Daugherty, Public Information Officer for the sheriff’s office.
“It’s an ongoing battle to rid the Justice Center of drugs,” said Major David Turner, who manages the Jail Services Division. “We do everything we possibly can.”
Dogs and handlers checked every cell and room in the Justice Center, trying to make sure no drugs have been smuggled inside.
“It puts the inmates at risk and it puts our deputies at risk,” Daugherty said. “With the threat of fentanyl, it could be catastrophic inside this facility.”
The searches are part of a larger effort against drugs that includes helping inmates struggling with addiction.
“We want to make an environment where someone has a drug charge, they can come here and have the opportunity to get clean. We don’t want them to be able to use in the jail,” Turner said.
The Justice Center has a “recovery pod” to help treat female inmates struggling with addiction, and the sheriff’s office hopes to have a male version in place by New Year’s.
“We have different kinds of programs in the jail. We provide counseling. Our ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism by getting people off opiates,” Turner said.
The Justice Center was the first jail in Ohio to offer Medically Assisted Treatment to inmates, Turner said.
“So we are able to provide medicine to the inmates to help them with their withdrawals and things like that,” Turner said.
Wednesday’s search did not turn up any drugs, so the handlers planted heroin in some lockers as part of the dogs’ training.
“Believe it or not, it’s an actual reward for the dog,” Turner said. “They don’t want to keep searching and not find anything, so it makes the dogs want to search for things.”
The sheriff’s office does large, coordinated sweeps at random, but it says deputies are constantly looking for drugs and other contraband.
“We do searches every day,” Turner said. “We are constantly searching the inmates, searching the facility.”