Sheriff Adam King, during the July 13 meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court, made requests to block the entry of K2 into the Johnson County Jail and, he hopes, any possible spread of COVID-19.
Commissioners granted both requests.
“K2 in the jail is getting out of hand,” King said. “And we want to shut it down.”
The synthetic drug, similar to marijuana, can be dissolved into a liquid, King said.
“What people do is they write a letter, which they soak the paper in the dissolved K2 then dry out and that makes it very hard for us to detect when those letters come into the jail,” King said.
The solution, King said, lies in a recently approved inmate education program, which is funded through jail commissary sales rather than taxpayer dollars.
The soon-to-be-launched program will offer education and other training opportunities to inmates on a voluntary basis.
The hope is to provide inmates with opportunity to turn their lives around and break the trend of cycling in and out of jail.
Commissioners in May approved Global Tel*Link, the company that inmate telephone service, to handle the program.
“They’re able to provide extensive education and GED programs plus hundreds of rehabilitation programs from anger management, drug counseling and things like that,” King said.
In exchange for extending the company’s contract from 2021 to 2024 will provide tablets, books and other educational materials, King said.
King stressed that the tablets are for educational and reading purposes but cannot be used by inmates to contact unauthorized outside parties.
The tablets should also take a big bite out of the jail’s K2 problem, King said.
Commissioners, during their July 13 meeting, approved an additional year on Global’s contract. For that Global will now receive and scan all inmate mail.
“The inmates will now read their letters on the tablets and won’t ever get or see the actual letters,” King said.
The Johnson County Jail has been fortunate so far, King said, and officials are taking all steps necessary to ensure that that remains the case.
“A lot of the jails in Texas have been overrun with COVID-19 and that’s our biggest fear right now,” King said. “We’ve been lucky so far but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do everything we can to keep it out of the jail.”
So far only two inmates have tested positive. Both were detected early and segregated in negative pressure cells with no additional spread having been reported.
Installation of special air filters and other steps have been taken to combat possible spread. Commissioners on July 13 took another by approving King’s request for upgraded security equipment.
Commissioners approved the purchase of additional fencing, gate locks, cameras and other equipment from Stanley Security at a cost of $107,367.
The purpose, King said, is to create a separate entrance and exit for overnight inmates, most of whom leave the jail during the day to work.
“Because they’re out in the community part of the day they’re the ones who pose the biggest risk of contacting COVID-19 and bringing it back into the jail, which poses a danger to our staff and the other inmates,” King said.
The new entrance system will allow such inmates to access their area of the jail without coming into contact with the other inmates or the majority of the jail staff.
Work on the new entrance should start soon, King said, adding that the overnight program has been suspended for the time being.