KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Inside the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility, responding to overdoses and administering Narcan has become the new normal.
Body camera video shows correctional officers racing against the clock to bring inmates back to consciousness. In some videos, they're trying to save two or three people at once.
"On a daily basis, we're taking some type of narcotics off of individuals that come into our facility," said Tom Spangler, the Knox County Sheriff. "We do have a scanner that is only as good as the operator is."
He said they're not allowed to do cavity searches without a search warrant.
"Unfortunately, what it does is it not only puts that that individual inmate in danger, in case something does explode or dissolve inside of them, it also endangers other inmates and our officers," he said. "Our officers are always having to deal with doing CPR or something on somebody that has overdosed within our facility."
The Knox County Sheriff's Office said 289 inmates have been convicted of possession or use of illegal drugs since Jan. 1, 2022.
The sheriff said the problem is only getting worse.
"Back in the days when I was a correctional officer, we didn't see things like that," he said. "The drugs unfortunately that these people are overdosing on are being laced with fentanyl and that's made a bigger issue for us."
Frmr. Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe, who is now the executive director of the Tennessee Sheriff's Association, said the overdose crisis keeps sheriffs up at night and adds to the stress of the job.
"Unfortunately the jail sees the same issues we see in our communities and the increase in overdoses corresponds to what we encounter publicly," he said. "We continue to work with all 95 sheriffs to give them the information, training, and access to the most current products and services available with a goal of zero overdoses in the jail and in our communities."
Sheriff Spangler said one challenge his correctional officers face is the staffing shortage inside the jail.
"We're at 50% of where we should be and that has put a huge burden upon our officers," Spangler said. "Yes, [these inmates] have done something wrong, but they do have a family. Somebody does care about them for the most part and they want to make sure that they do come out of the facility whenever their term is up."