Several people suspected of attempting to bring illegal substances into Santa Barbara’s Northern Branch Jail have been arrested, and several more commissary workers were banned, following investigations into overdoses that occurred at the facility in recent months, according to Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Raquel Zick.
Zick could not confirm the number of individuals arrested, nor could she provide details on whether those arrested were inmates currently housed in the facility, employees of the jail, or outside workers contracted at the facility.
Jail staff did confirm that several contract commissary employees were “banned from Sheriff’s Office jail facility for security violations,” but staff could not elaborate on specifics regarding the violations.
“The nature of the security violations is not available for release as we do not want to jeopardize the safety of our facilities,” Zick told the Independent. “These investigations remain ongoing.”
Sheriff’s detectives and patrol deputies made the arrests following the investigation into a rash of overdoses in recent months, including an incident on November 19 in which two inmates overdosed at the Northern Branch Jail in the course of one night, causing custody deputies and emergency staff to scramble to resuscitate both. One man successfully regained consciousness after six doses of naloxone, but the other — 37-year-old Edgar Estrada Amezcua from Santa Maria — was pronounced dead early the next morning after multiple failed attempts at life-saving measures.
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Both county jails contract their commissary service through the Keefe Group, and though some of the contracted employees were banned from the jail going forward, Zick said the commissary contract with the company will continue.
Earlier in the week, the Sheriff’s Office and Pacific Pride Foundation hosted a Naloxone training at the Northern Branch Jail, where more than 90 inmates at the facility were trained on administering the life-saving drug in emergency situations and recognizing signs of an overdose, which include difficulty staying awake, slowed breathing, confusion, and pale, blueish lips and fingernails.
“Overdoses from fentanyl and other opioids kill far too many people in our communities,” said Sheriff Bill Brown, who has brought the local opioid crisis to the forefront of local law enforcement priorities with Project Opioid. “It is important that everyone knows how to recognize when an overdose has occurred and know how to use naloxone to save a life.”
With the naloxone training, the Sheriff’s Office staff hopes to “increase lifesaving overdose intervention and decrease overdose deaths, both in our custody facilities as well as in our communities.“
Anyone with information that would assist investigators in this matter should contact the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Division by calling (805) 681-4150. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you can provide information by calling the tip line at (805) 681-4171 or online at SBSheriff.org.