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Citing Influx Of Addicted Inmates, County Sheriff Calls For More Spending To Combat Opioid Epidemic

More people who are addicted to opioids are coming into the Marion County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. The influx has the sheriff calling on Indiana lawmakers to spend more to combat addiction.   

Lieutenant Colonel James Martin, the Marion County Jail commander, says the facility has seen an influx of people going into withdrawals. “The majority of the problems we are dealing with are your first 20 or so hours in custody,” says Martin.

He says people are also using drugs inside the jail or using right before they’re arrested.  People can overdose and must be given naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote, before being sent to the hospital for treatment. Martin says they've had to use naloxone more and more over the past year.

People are also smuggling substances into the facility by hiding them in a body cavity or swallowing them. For instance, the sheriff’s office says that on August 14th, an inmate “allegedly removed something from a body cavity, placed it in his mouth and swallowed it. He was transferred by ambulance to Eskenazi and survived.”

The sheriff’s office is relying more on K-9 units, and is even considering buying a body scanner to help stop illicit drugs from coming in.

“We are doing our very, very best to try to find the drugs,” says Martin.

Martin says these issues are symptomatic of the larger opioid crisis that is taking place in cities around the country — not just in Marion County.

“Something has to be done,” he says. “It starts in the community. And that’s where some attention needs to be driven.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Sheriff John Layton urged the state to use part of Indiana’s budget surplus to tackle the addiction epidemic outside of the jail.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a reporting collaborative focused on public health.

Jake Harper is an investigative reporter for Side Effects Public Media, and he is a co-host of the Sick podcast. He can be reached at