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'Contraband is a problem': Metro Corrections introduces new jail security enhancements

FOP Lodge 77 President Daniel Johnson said mail will be examined, scanned and copied, preventing substances from getting further into the jail.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — New security measures have been announced at Metro Corrections following a fatal overdose Sunday night.

The jail said they are working hard to fight the illicit drugs coming into the facility.

Officials said in a news release that dozens of attempts to get drugs into the jail are sent through mail, secreted in body cavities and through other sources they say are under investigation.

They do believe that most attempts are foiled by corrections officers and staff.

"There's greeting cards where people will try to get things in between the paper and the card itself," FOP Lodge 77 President Daniel Johnson said as one example. 

Metro Corrections said even though they do have security controls in place, there is evidence that contraband, including street drugs, has been placed in the mail sent by third parties to persons housed at the facility.

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Here's how those safety measures will work:

  • Original envelopes and enclosed non-privileged documents sent by mail to an inmate from a third person shall not be delivered directly to the inmate. The mail shall be copied, and the copy shall be delivered to the inmate through the institutional mail.
  • Privileged mail, which includes attorney-client communications, shall continue to be processed pursuant to established policy. That policy permits privileged mail to be opened in the inmate’s presence to allow a cursory examination of the content to ensure there is no contraband intermingled with the privileged mail.
  • Books and magazines received from third parties will be returned to the sender.
  • Effective April 2, newly operational body scanners will be in place to utilize the most up-to-date technology on drug interdiction. Newly admitted inmates will continue to be frisk searched, placed through a body scanner, and may be strip-searched. The frequency of the initial frisk search and strip searches shall increase. Additionally, the frequency of inmate searches, inmate housing unit searches, and searches in public spaces shall increase.
  • LMDC Majors are coordinating a schedule for frequent use of available K-9 drug detection resources to be deployed at LMDC. LMDC is currently in the process of securing its own dogs and training handlers.
  • The use of inmate work-aids for tasks outside the housing unit is being revamped to increase supervision and maximize resources that shall result in fewer inmate work-aides being utilized outside of their housing unit at any given time

"We're looking every day at what we can do to stop the flow of contraband into the facility," LMDC Assistant Director Steve Durham said Tuesday. 

Metro corrections officers said the new security measures are a step in the right direction. 

"It's a risk to all people inside the building, inmates, officers, anyone who works in there. Contraband is a problem," Officer Benjamin Bowman said. 

Johnson said because of drugs that are sent through the mail, officers searching mail have been exposed to drugs. 

He said now, mail will be examined, scanned and copied, preventing substances from getting further into the jail. Johnson said other larger facilities use systems like this, and they're far safer. 

"That's just one less avenue that somebody is going to be able to be creative and find new ways to sneak things past the officers checking the mail," he said. 

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The jail also plans on making regular K-9 sweeps for drug detection. 

Councilwoman Amy Holton Stewart (D25) spearheaded a push to get a K-9 unit at LMDC. 

She said two dogs have been secured for the jail and will be available soon. Holton Stewart said several dozen officers applied for the two K-9 handler positions. 

"I believe these changes should have been instituted months or even years ago," she said. "But on the positive side, I'm glad they're taking some additional measures to tighten up security at the jail." 

Monday, the jail is set to get a new director. Lt. Col. Jerry Collings worked at LMDC for 20 years before retiring and then taking over as commander of Clark County, Indiana's jail. 

Johnson said new leadership will be a positive change, and officers are open-minded. 

Durham said many employees at Metro Corrections know Collins from his time there, and he is a "proactive guy." 

"I think he'll support what we're doing and probably have some ideas of how we can go forward," Durham said.

Barry Williams Sr., 50, had been at the jail since May 2020. Jail officials said he had been convicted of multiple crimes but was still housed at the facility on a $100,000 bond while awaiting post-trial hearings.

Williams was found unresponsive in his cell Sunday around 11:30 p.m. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

His death marks the eighth death at the facility since November 2021.

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