SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office has released the autopsy results of an inmate who died while in county jail back in May. Based on the autopsy findings, it's determined that Timothy Janowicz died of a heroin overdose.
Janowicz had been in county jail since November of last year and was scheduled to be released in 2015. Somehow he was able to get a hold of heroin while in jail. Keeping drugs out of the jail system is a problem the Sheriff's Office has been fighting for some time now.
"What we have is inmates that come into the jail, and they have secreted something outside or inside their body and they are able to smuggle contraband into the jail that way," said sheriff spokesperson Tony Cipolla.
The Sheriff's Office says inmates are able to get their hands on drugs and weapons far too easily, typically by hiding them in places where jail staff can't find them by typical strip searches.
"We are allowed to strip search an inmate who is going to be housed in the jail. That does not include a full-body cavity search," said Cipolla. "We are not allowed to do those unless we have a court order and it's supported by probable cause."
Inmate Timothy Janowicz died last month while in county jail, marking the 3rd inmate death this year. Autopsy results for Janowicz showed he died of a heroin overdose. A blocked artery was also a contributing factor. The Sheriff's Office is still investigating how he got a hold of the drug and when he used it.
Dr. Dane Howalt runs the San Luis Obispo Addiction Recovery Center. He treats people for opiate addictions, among others forms of addiction. Howalt says he's spoken with people who say heroin use is rampant in the jail and prison systems.
"People will do anything to get it, which is why they are willing to commit crimes that they know are wrong," said Howalt.
Right now, county jail has a K-9 unit that does random searches of each jail cell. Since jail staff can't do a full body cavity search without a court order or probably cause, the Sheriff's Office has budgeted for a piece of equipment that will help them find contraband that is tough to find on an inmate. It's called a digital security screening system.
"It's typically what they would use at an airport, like what TSA uses. It's a very low-dose x-ray," said Cipolla.
The system costs about $185,000. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office expects it to be in place by the end of the year.