Dukes County Jail suspects visitor provided drugs to prisoners

Five inmates at the Dukes County Jail and House of Correction tested positive for a prescription narcotic last week, according to Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack. The sheriff’s department suspects a woman with a child, visiting an inmate, smuggled the narcotics into the jail, but the sheriff concluded there was not enough evidence to seek charges.

After conducting interviews of the inmates involved, Sheriff McCormack believes the narcotic was Suboxone, a drug marketed by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc., a British company. The drug is prescribed to reduce dependence on heroin or other opiates. The sheriff said the investigation indicated two pills were smuggled into the facility on Upper Main Street in Edgartown.

He described the jail visitor as a person of interest.

“The person of interest was the wife of an inmate who had lost his visitor privileges, except for his wife,” Mr. McCormack said.

On Wednesday, June 1, jail officers administered random drug tests on the inmates. Jail officers received positive test results on Thursday and immediately locked down the jail. Sheriff McCormack said every inmate was confined in his cell until officers could conduct interrogations and complete a thorough search of the jail. The inmates remained under lockdown until Friday, when a K-9 unit specially trained to detect drugs swept the entire jail and grounds. The searches turned up no illegal drugs.

The inmates will not face charges, according to the sheriff. “They’re not in possession of anything,” Mr. McCormack said. “They’re under the influence.”

Under state law, a positive drug test does not constitute evidence of posession.

They will face discipline, however. The inmate suspected of receiving and distributing the narcotics will be segregated from the jail population and again lose all visitor privileges. Other inmates who tested positive for drugs will also be subject to disciplinary lockup, according Mr. McCormack. All will be referred to the classification board, a panel of sheriff’s department officials that decides what priveleges the inmates are given and whether they should be confined under minimum, medium, or maximum security regulations.

The sheriff said he could not release the names of the inmates involved, or the “person of interest,” because no charges will be sought.

The sheriff said every inmate who returns to the jail after a community service detail or other authorized release is thoroughly patted down for contraband. Officers scan every visitor to the jail with a metal detector, but visitors are not otherwise searched. Inmates are continually observed by jail officers during visits.

This is the second time in recent months that drugs were discovered inside the jail. In May, a judge sentenced Kevin J. Rocheteau, 31, of South Yarmouth, to six months in the house of correction for possession of Suboxone. Mr. Rocheteau was already serving a 2.5-year sentence for the 2007 theft of a safe from the E.C. Cottle lumberyard in West Tisbury. Approximately $10,000 was stolen in that robbery, according to police.