Chesterfield Jail seeing threefold increase in inmates with drugs and other contraband in their bodies –

Full body X-ray scanning machine at Chesterfield County Jail
Full body X-Ray scanning machine at Chesterfield County Jail
Chesterfield County Jail officials have seen a threefold increase in recent months of inmates found with anomalies inside their bodies — usually concealed narcotics — after being examined by the facility’s full body X-ray scanning machine. A cylinder-shaped object containing drugs inside was found Tuesday in the abdomen of a Petersburg man who was being processed into the jail.
“I’d say probably in the last two months we’ve seen this increase — and it’s concerning,” Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard said Wednesday. “Generally it’s like one [inmate] every other couple of days. Now we’re seeing about three a day” that have to be isolated until the contraband inside their bodies can be passed.
Inmates detected to have anomalies are put through a process called “dry cell” — a cell without a toilet — where they are isolated until they pass what’s inside them.
“It’s not unusual to see three people a day waiting to clear things in their system,” Leonard said. “The process is a little disgusting, [because] when it passes, our deputies literally have to go through it to find the [hidden] material.”
On Tuesday, John J. Anderson was arrested in Chesterfield on three felony probation violation charges from Brunswick County. As part of his processing at the jail, Anderson was required to submit to a full body scan, which revealed a cylinder-shaped object in his abdominal area, the sheriff’s office said.
Anderson was placed in a dry cell, where he later passed the object, which authorities said consisted of two bags of suspected Suboxone, a mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone medications used to treat opioid addiction. The man-made drugs can be addictive and, in some cases, result in overdoses.
In February 2021, deputies uncovered a complex scheme to smuggle Suboxone strips into the Chesterfield Jail that authorities said involved exploiting a loophole in the facility’s legal mail system for inmates. Six people were charged, including four inmates awaiting trial or already serving time for various convictions.
Since the Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office purchased the body scan machine in 2019 for $166,000, a large assortment of drugs and other contraband — such as cigarette lighters and syringes — have been detected inside inmates’ bodies. The drugs detected include fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid that can result in a fatal overdose in minuscule amounts. Just three milligrams is enough to kill an average-sized man.
“If we believe it’s fentanyl, we’re going to admit them to a hospital to get medical care, so the medical expert can actually monitor and watch the individual,” Leonard said. “Because potentially, it could be very fatal if it breaks open” inside them.
Leonard said those most likely to try and smuggle drugs inside the jail are defendants convicted and sentenced to jail who are given a deferred incarceration date. Before reporting for jail to begin serving their sentence, “they’ll load up … because they know they’re going to be in there awhile,” he said.
The sheriff recalled one person who “almost brought an entire pharmacy with him.”
“He had marijuana, he had pills, he had cocaine, he had heroin — all within baggies inside of him,” Leonard said, adding, “We’re not seeing the large quantities of drugs anymore because you don’t need as much when it’s a drug like fentanyl.”
Although expensive, the sheriff’s office decided it couldn’t wait any longer to purchase a full body scanner when “we started seeing the trend with fentanyl around 2019.”
“The last thing we want is somebody coming into our facility, getting through the jail and into the back with fentanyl on them,” Leonard said. “We did our best to identify [contraband] prior to this, but the [body scanner] is a whole new level of potential for us. It’s a great tool.”
Andrews now faces a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance for the suspected Suboxone that was concealed inside his body.
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Full body X-ray scanning machine at Chesterfield County Jail
Full body X-Ray scanning machine at Chesterfield County Jail
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