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Four Suspected Drug Overdoses in D.C. Jail in One Week of May 2022

By Jo Ellen Nott

At the jail in Washington, D.C., two prisoners died and two more were hospitalized during the third week of May 2022 from suspected overdoses.

The first victim, Ramone O’Neal, 28, was discovered unresponsive and unconscious on May 13, 2022. His death is currently attributed to “unknown causes.”

Just two days later, on May 15, 2022, Sean Lee, 37, and his cellmate were discovered unconscious. Lee was pronounced dead 30 minutes later, but the cellmate—who was not named—survived after being administered CPR, a dose of naloxone and receiving medical attention in a local hospital.

The fourth suspected overdose at the jail occurred May 19, 2022. The prisoner, who was also not named, was given naloxone to reverse the probable opioid overdose and then treated at a local hospital before returning to the jail.

All four overdoses occurred in the Central Detention Facility, which is the higher-security side of the D.C. Jail. The units where the incidents took place were not disclosed due to security reasons.

The D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has not confirmed the cause of death for Ramone O’Neal or Sean Lee. The OCME process for determining and disclosing cause of death typically lasts 90 days.

The D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) has ruled out trauma and suicide as causes, and neither OCME nor DOC officials can say which specific substances were involved in the suspected overdoses.

The four incidents are under investigation and have led DOC to step up facility-wide searches for contraband, including the use of its K9 unit. The agency has also increased drug education for prisoners at the jail in response to the recent overdoses. DOC is seeking to hire a third-party security firm to beef up entry screening at the D.C. Jail.

In February 2022, a D.C. Jail guard was arrested and charged with bribery and providing or possessing contraband in prison. Johnson Ayuk, 31, allegedly smuggled knives, drugs, and cellphones into the prison.

The incidents came as no surprise to the U.S. Marshals Service, which found “pervasive evidence of drug use” after officials paid a surprise visit to the jail in October 2021.

Sources: DCist, WTOP

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