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County Jail Locked Down For Drug Search

Westchester County Esecutive Rob Astorino leads a Tuesday news conference at the County Jail in Valhalla. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
George Longworth, county commissioner of public safety, updates reporters during Tuesday's news conference at the County Jail. Justin Pruyne and Wanda Smithson, deputy commissioners of corrections, are to his left. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Part of the Westchester County Jail complex at Valhalla, where 13 inmates suffered overdoses from a synthetic on July 12, 19 and 20, county officials said during a news conference in Valhalla on Tuesday. The jail was locked down for a search Monday. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Westchester County Jail was locked down overnight Monday for "a top to bottom search" for drugs and other evidence of smuggling, County Executive Rob Astorino said at a Tuesday news conference at the jail.

At least four more inmates "will be charged by the end of the day with promoting prison contraband,'' in addition to two inmates who were charged with the misdemeanor on Monday, according to Westchester County Commissioner of Public Safety George Longworth.

A total of 13 inmates had to be treated for overdoses of a synthetic marijuana known as "2chee" The synthetic drug -- which caused inmates to become combative, vomit or hallucinate -- also is called K2, spike or spice, county officials said. 

"This is serious, nasty stuff,'' Astorino said. "It's hitting Westchester as well as New York state and the rest of the country."

County police K9 units, with the assistance of drug-sniffing dogs from the Harrison and Yonkers police departments, searched 240 cells as well as common areas of the jail in Valhalla overnight, concluding at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Longworth said.

"Every building on this corrections campus will be inspected,'' Astorino said. "Our goal is zero tolerance because they put everyone at risk. ... We're going to review all procedures."

Justin Pruyne, deputy commissioner of corrections, said all three incidents of overdoses on July 12, 19 and 20 seem to be related because inmates ingested or smoked the drug and suffered similar reactions. Pruyne said Sunday is a high visitation day, so that may have contributed to a visitor smuggling of illegal drugs into the jail, which is a felony crime.

Pruyne said a pipe made out of a water bottle was found in one cell and a burnt marijuana roach in another, leading to the first two inmate charges on Monday.

County officials are trying to determine how the drug got into the facility,which incarcerates a total of 1,100 inmates awaiting sentencing including about 100 on federal charges. Two inmates admitted to ingesting synthetic marijuana, officials said.

Longworth said a total of 26 inmates have been charged with promoting prison contraband this year. Forty-two inmates faced similar charges last year, he said, and 38 in 2013.

"Just because the search ended this morning, that doesn't mean it's the last search,'' Longworth said. 


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