By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
At the Hancock County jail, an increase of inmates who have been using methamphetamine creates safety and medical concerns, according to Lt. Ryan Kidwell, the jail administrator.
As of June 12, 38 people had been incarcerated on meth-related charges this year, while 37 people were jailed for meth during all of 2018.
The behavior of a person using meth depends on how much they’re using, how often they’re using, and when they last used, Kidwell said.
If someone has used a “substantial quantity” of the stimulant for several days in a row, “typically they’re going to be very violent,” he said.
Standard metal handcuffs may not ensure the safety of the inmate or the jail staff, and inmates could cut themselves on them if they hit their hands against a door or wall. Soft hand and ankle restraints can be used instead, Kidwell said.
A restraint chair with a five-point harness is also available, he said. That comes with increased surveillance, and nurses checking to make sure there are no blood circulation problems.
“It’s a lot of extra work for staff at that point,” Kidwell said.
An inmate can’t stay in the chair more than eight hours without a doctor checking and approving further use, Kidwell said.
Sometimes a person behaves aggressively enough that jail staff warn that a Taser will be used, and sometimes they follow through, but “we don’t have a lot of those cases,” Kidwell said.
If a person is trying to spit on or bite jail staff, a hood with a mesh top and a bottom that can’t be bitten through is available.
“We have to treat each incident for the incident that it is” and respond appropriately, Kidwell said. The goal is as “minimal use of force as possible.”
In addition to safety concerns, there are medical concerns.
Usually, it takes 20 or 30 minutes at most to complete an intake process that includes questions about health concerns and prescription drug use, Kidwell said.
But if someone on meth is too violent or aggressive to answer the questions, all staff can do at first is fill out observation paperwork until the inmate can cooperate.
“You really do have to kind of wait it out,” Kidwell said.
If there’s concern about a potential overdose, the inmate will be taken to the hospital emergency room.
Nurses are at the jail from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight, Kidwell said, and the Blanchard Valley Hospital emergency room is an overnight backup. Nurses and doctors are on call at the hospital 24/7.
The jail medical staff has a withdrawal protocol that includes rules on how often to check on inmates coming down from drug use. The physical examinations include checking blood pressure and temperature and providing Gatorade to maintain hydration.
The safety issues caused by meth use aren’t like those caused by other drugs, or by alcohol, Kidwell said.