Inmate Population Hit Especially Hard By Fentanyl In County Jails

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (February 6, 2023) –  Fentanyl has surpassed meth as the leading cause of overdose death in Los Angeles County, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

In 2016, it was estimated that fentanyl accounted for roughly 20% of all overdose deaths in the county. In 2022, fentanyl was responsible for 92% of all overdose deaths.

During that six year period, the number of overall overdose deaths has also continued to rise. The sharp rise in fentanyl deaths has also hit the prison population in the county.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department a total of eight inmates died from a fentanyl overdose in 2023 alone.


Liability For Los Angeles County Inmate Overdose Deaths

Fentanyl is used to treat extreme pain and can be incredibly dangerous due to its potency. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, “Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.” It is common for criminals to mix fentanyl with other substances. Jail officials should look for a number of signs which can be symptoms of a fentanyl overdose.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Nausea
  • Blue lips or fingernails

Jails have a legal obligation to protect inmates. They must also provide all inmates with reasonably adequate healthcare. That begins when an inmate is first admitted into a jail. They must undergo a health screening. Inmates are at greater risk of having pre-existing medical conditions. They are also more likely to suffer from substance abuse. Jails should take a number of measures to prevent inmates from dying due to a drug overdose.

  • Jails should be stocked with Narcan, which can be used to reverse the effects of an overdose.
  • Jail staff should be trained to recognize the signs of an inmate overdose.
  • Jails should follow the instructions given to them by medical professionals.

Inmate overdose deaths are highly preventable. They tend to happen when jail staff are not following proper procedures. This could include not performing periodic wellness checks on the inmates in their care. It may also include instances where jail staff delay medical care for lengthy periods. The family of any person that died due to a drug overdose may have legal recourse through a civil claim.

Investigating Los Angeles County Drug Overdose Deaths

We at the Sehat Law Firm were  deeply concerned to hear about the sharp rise of overdose deaths across LA County. State officials need to do their part to help keep fentanyl and other illicit drugs out of the prison system. Far too many inmates have died in preventable drug overdoses.

Do you need more information about a Los Angeles County inmate death? Our team of civil rights attorneys are here for you. We care deeply that inmates are aware of their rights and that jails are upholding constitutional standards. Whether you just have legal questions or are thinking about hiring an attorney we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at (949) 825-5200.


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