Maricopa County battles surge of drug-related deaths in jails

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he plans to purchase scanning machines to detect any possible drugs coming into jails.
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 9:14 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - After a Maricopa County Detention Officer was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs into a Phoenix jail, it’s brought light to a bigger issue: an uptick of drug-related deaths in local jails.

Lisa Espinoza, a mother of five, was outraged because her son, 31-year-old Larry Ogle Jr., died in his cell at a Maricopa County jail on Jan. 8. She told Arizona’s Family he was found Sunday morning “foaming at the mouth.”

Espinoza said she talked to her son two days before his death, and he was ready to turn his life around. “He was happy, he was ready to come home and in his mind he was coming home,” she said. Although it’s unknown at this time if Larry overdosed on drugs, on Wednesday, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said drug-related deaths in jails have gone up each of the last five years. “In 2022, 172 inmates were taken to the correctional health services because of drug related incidents 17 of those incarcerated deaths were a result to an overdose of drugs,” Penzone said.

Espinoza says the drug problems in jails need to change, and Penzone agreed. “It’s not acceptable that in an environment with the custody of inmates that we have folks die on our watch,” he said. Penzone announced Wednesday he plans to purchase scanning machines to detect any possible drugs coming into jails. There isn’t an exact date when those machines will be implemented, but the sheriff’s office has already been trying to combat the drug problem.

Penzone said they have seized drugs being mailed to inmates, and all officers are trained to administer Narcan in case of a drug-related incident so that other families won’t suffer the same pain as Larry’s. “He’s loving, kind, always giving hugs and kisses,” Espinoza said. “I miss him and I wish I can hold him and I wish I could bring him home again.”

A car wash is being held at the Aztec Pawn Shop located on Central Avenue and Baseline Road in the plaza with the KFC on Saturday, Jan. 14, beginning at 9 a.m. You can also donate to the family using this GofundMe.