SPOKANE, Wash.- Since 2017, nine inmates have died at the Spokane County Jail.

Some were suicides, and some were overdoses.

Interim Detention Services Director Mike Sparber says it's unfair to look at the deaths as a group though rather than individual cases.

But the jail says the opioid epidemic is out of control as Spokane County detention officers have administered more than 50 doses of Narcan to inmates since January 1st.

"It's a huge issue. Their addiction, when they come in there addiction, is so great that they're willing to you know conceal the drugs within their body and then you know retrieve them later," Sparber told KHQ during a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

During strip searches, jail guards can't detect drugs that an inmate puts in their body.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says his deputies book people who are on drugs almost every day and it's a problem.

"This is an issue unless we find a solution to the opioid problem is going to be a growing issue and one that we're going to work very diligently across the criminal justice spectrum to deal with. Fentanyl is going to be more of a problem than the opioid issue because it is more deadly," said Sheriff Knezovich.

Last month, three Spokane County inmates were found passed out from taking a powdery drug that was smuggled into the jail.

Earlier this week, deputies say they arrested a woman for two felony warrants, and as they were booking her into jail, they found she had hidden a bag of heroin inside her.

The Spokane Regional Health District's Doctor, Bob Lutz couldn't discuss specific inmates' deaths, but he says the Fentanyl problem is real.

"Nationwide we've been seeing a spike in Fentanyl. Washington state is seeing it later than especially the eastern states and midwestern states have seen, but now again the concern is now we're seeing Fentanyl which is significantly more potent than other opioids," said Dr. Lutz.

So how is Spokane County going to cut down on contraband getting past jail officers?

Over the next several week's deputies and the county will be looking at getting body scanning machines similar to the ones you go through at the airport security.

Sparber says these scanners work.

"It's hard to say exactly what the overall success rate is but preliminary indications we have seen have been up in the 80 percent range.. 80 percent of the time."

Sparber also says the jail staff has saved lives and don't get enough credit for the work they do.

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