Jailhouse Drugs - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Jackson, MO

Jailhouse Drugs

Jailhouse Drugs
By: CJ Cassidy

JACKSON, MO -- Some jailors want to cut down on some of the medications they hand out to inmates.

Prosecutors put lawbreakers in jail for stealing prescription drugs, so how does it help if those same inmates get those drugs behind bars free? It's a problem that's been around for a while.

So some jailors have enlisted the help of specialists who have studied jails and inmates to help them reduce the amount of your money they're spending on prescription drugs.  Most in law enforcement agree, and the Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor wishes it would've happened sooner.
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The day before Michael Berry was scheduled to go on trial for manslaughter charges, defense attorneys claimed he wasn't fit to stand trial. Berry allegedly was high on methamphetamine when he hit a Chaffee woman's car head on last year. The woman died of her injuries.

"They said he was so fixated on the fact that he wasn't getting the medication he wanted that he couldn't even talk to them," Swingle says.

Experts say they were trying to wean Berry off the prescription drug Xanax, when his trial date came up.

"The drugs this defendant were on were ones that would give a sense of euphoria," Swingle explains.

"It's the doctors duty to make sure the patient is getting what he needs and not what he wants," Dr. Norman Johnson says.

The Cape Girardeau County jailor commissioned Dr. Johnson to help cut down the high cost of prescription drugs.

"The way it works... One inmate will be on a drug he likes or even share it with another inmate they like drugs so they will ask him about symptoms he gave the doctor like, 'I hear voices' or 'I have chronic backpain', "Dr. Johnson says.

In Paducah, Jailor Cliff Gill of McCracken County agrees the problem is a real "pill" to deal with.

"A lot of times people on meth will come into jail with withdrawal pains try to seek narcotics," Gill says.

In Michael Berry's case, a second medical opinion is in the works.

Prosecutor Swingle hopes he never has to deal with such a situation again.

"My heart goes out to the minister who lost his wife it's now been more than a year since that accident case still not gone to trial" Swingle says.

Some of the larger jails in the Heartland spend about $15,000 a month on inmate medical bills; much of that goes towards prescription drugs.

Meanwhile, Dr. Norman Johnson has some advice for physicians who work in jails. He says they should attend jail conferences to understand the inmate culture a little better.

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