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K2 killing Arkansas inmates

Inmates and relatives of inmates are concerned and the state crime lab says the numbers show they have reason to be concerned about K2 use in the Arkansas prison system.

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -

Ten days ago an inmate inside Cummins prison, Chris Hudson, was found dead in his bed.

The Arkansas State Police is investigating but a source inside the prison tells Channel Seven News that Hudson's death was related to the synthetic drug K2.

Tonight we take a look at a growing problem inside our prisons.

During a five-week period in August and September, four inmates in three different Arkansas prisons were found dead in their cells.

Stephen Shaw, Devon Lemay, Cody Brickner and Kenneth Jones were all 29 to 33 years old.

All of them had drug-related disciplinary problems while in prison.

For example, on June 28th Shaw earned 30 days in isolation for using drugs, alcohol or other chemicals.

And twice last year he got the same punishment for refusing to submit to a drug test.

Shaw was serving a 55 year-sentence for killing 41 year-old Wesley Burris in his Little Rock home in 2012...and then setting the home on fire in an attempt to conceal the crime.

A state police investigation into Shaw's death states that "It was suspected that k2 is involved."

The other three deaths are still being investigated.

If they turn out to be k2 related it will not surprise state crime lab Deputy Director Cindy Moran.

"It's very dangerous,” says Moran. “And it has different effects on the people...different people. And it just depends on the compounds themselves. They are ever changing so it may not take very much to cause a death for someone."

At our request the state crime lab researched all of the prison inmate deaths linked to K2 over a 14 month period: July 1st of 2016 through August 31st of 2017.

"Ten,” says Moran. “We've had ten cases that have tested positive for these K2 or synthetic cannabinoids."

KATV has been investigating a dozen inmate deaths that have occurred since last summer.

The state crime lab confirms that seven of the deaths do involve K2..but cannot specify which ones. Others may be K2-related as well but the drug metabolizes quickly and comes in over 100 varieties. In many cases K2 use is suspected but cannot be confirmed.

A sister of Julian Shavers tells us he did die due to a drug overdose, but it was not K2.

The wife of Donnie Nahlen says his cause of death is listed as hypertension and hardening of the arteries.

But Sharlene Nahlen says her husband often complained about the rampant drug use inside Cummins prison...his home for the past 20 years.

A drug addiction cost Nahlen his freedom...and possibly his life.

"Do you think that the prison system thinks that there is a K2 problem and do you think that they're trying to address it?"

"No,” says Nahlen. “Not unless his death has rocked the boat. No. I really don't think that they...according to Donnie they don't give a shit."

A correctional officer at Varner watched Jody Cook consume a kite...or a folded piece of paper...commonly used to transport drugs in prison. He died several hours later.

Kirby Joe Coggin told fellow inmates he was going to sell his commissary items and buy enough K2 to kill himself.

James Walker suffered a head injury during an incident and later died. An inmate tells us Walker was beaten to death over a K2 debt.

All three inmates had drug-related disciplinaries on their records.

"They call it Deuce in there,” says a mother who has a son currently serving time in an Arkansas prison. “It's K-2. It's that synthetic marijuana out here."

This mother says drug problems got her son in. She is praying a drug problem doesn't keep him from getting out.

"Just the last year really is when that Deuce has gotten really thick inside the prison,” says the mother. “And he said he just...he tries to stay away. There's something about it. He's tried lots of drugs out here off and on and he said there's something about that that people can't stay away from it."

"Our concern was how these things could be entering the prison system,” says Kermit Channell, Director of the Arkansas State Crime Lab.

We asked how many correctional officers have been terminated over the past year for bringing K2 or other illegal drugs into prison. We learned that 15 people have been fired for trafficking in all forms of contraband.

The inmates, relatives of inmates, former prison employees and volunteers that we have talked with all agree that correctional officers are the most likely way K2 is getting into Arkansas prisons.

Air date: November 14th, 2017

BONUS INFORMATION:

Below is a list of K2 incidents that have occurred over the past three years inside Arkansas prisons. The 2007 numbers include January through July:

UNIT..................................................Jan-July 2017..............2016..............2015

Benton Work Release............................9..............................10....................17

Cummins....................................................96............................133..................11

Delta............................................................59.............................15.....................0

East Arkansas (Brickeys)....................206...........................67....................13

Grimes........................................................21..............................7.......................2

Maximum Security.................................23..............................4......................2

McPherson.................................................0...............................6......................1

Mississippi Co. work release...............9...............................4......................0

North Central (Calico Rock)................6...............................5......................0

N.W. Arkansas work release...............3................................0......................0

Ouachita (Malvern)...............................39............................37.....................12

Pine Bluff complex.................................46............................66.....................38

Texarkana work release........................3...............................4......................13

Tucker.........................................................53............................60......................66

Varner.........................................................75............................37.......................0

Wrightsville..............................................59............................11.......................4

TOTALS:...................................................707...........................466..................179

Also, when asked if any policy changes have been made in 2017 to address the increasing problem of K2 use in the prison system, this is the ADC’s response:

“The Department of Correction continuously takes steps to reduce the presence of contraband, to include drugs, in its facilities. Efforts to educate the inmate population and general public on the dangers of K2 continue. These efforts include warnings on our web site, signage throughout the interior and exterior of every facility, along with educational videos which are shown in the barracks. In August of this year, the Department revised its inmate correspondence policy in direct response to the use of mail to introduce drugs into facilities. The Department also maintains various search and surveillance methods that are both active and passive. In October of this year, the Department announced that it is upgrading the security equipment throughout its entrance buildings. These upgrades will greatly enhance current efforts to detect and deter the introduction, manufacture, possession, or conveyance of contraband. Finally, the Department of Correction will fully investigate and appropriately respond, including advocating for criminal prosecution, to any attempt to introduce, manufacture, possess or convey contraband; regardless of the source.”


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