Local News

Eight inmates hospitalized after suspected drug use in Harnett County

Posted January 17, 2016 10:01 a.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2016 5:37 p.m. EST

— Eight inmates from Harnett Correctional Institution were taken to local hospitals Saturday. Authorities suspect the inmates were using a form of synthetic marijuana known as K2.

Keith Acree, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, said that inmates began getting sick Friday afternoon and several were found unresponsive in their dormitories. By Saturday night, eight inmates had been sent to area hospitals.

Only one remained hospitalized by Monday.

Acree said that another inmate, who used K2, was evaluated by prison medical staff and did not need to go to a hospital.

Authorities do not believe other drugs were involved.

Acree said that investigators have not yet determined how the K2 was able to enter the prison. He described the drug as a "leafy substance" and explained that it would have been difficult to conceal it in the mail, which is heavily screened.

"Contraband can come into prisons through a variety of matters – through visitors, from compromised staff members, and it can be thrown, flown, or launched over the fence," said Acree.

Acree said that contraband is a challenge at all prison facilities, but he noted that there have been no other incidents like this at the Harnett Correctional in recent years.

The Lillington Police Department is investigating, and an internal investigation has been launched as well. Acree said no charges had been filed Sunday night.