Breaking Down Barriers: ‘An ongoing battle’: Corrections staff work to prevent drug trade in county jail

Breaking Down Barriers: ‘An ongoing battle’: Corrections staff work to prevent drug trade in county jail

From the Las Vegas Optic

Editor’s note: The following is part five in an ongoing series on drug and alcohol addiction in San Miguel and Mora counties. In the coming weeks, we’ll explore what’s being done about it and take a look at how other communities are addressing addiction.

Ashley N. Fernandez approached the nondescript door on the back of the courthouse early in the morning. She moved quickly, and everything went as planned. She hurried back to a car parked on Morrison Street and drove away, headed toward National Avenue.

The transport van arrived hours later. Carrying inmates from the San Miguel County Detention Center, it pulled up to the door at the back of the courthouse. It was Thursday, May 10, 2018, and Jason C. Smith was being transported to District Court for a hearing in a drug possession case. As he stepped out of the van, he checked for an important package that was supposed to be attached to the railing by the door — a package containing 16 strips of Suboxone, an opioid. Inside a jail, each strip can fetch as much as $100, according to an affidavit filed in San Miguel Magistrate Court in May 2018.

Video cameras mounted above the door and on the corners of the building captured his movements, just as they’d captured Fernandez’s actions earlier that day.

After his hearing, Smith checked for the small package again. This time, he located it on the ground. Fernandez had affixed a magnet to the package to make it stick to the railing. She’d tested it, she’d told him during a jail call, but somehow, the package had fallen to the ground.

Smith dropped his court paperwork. When a guard stopped to pick up the sheaf of documents, Smith used the distraction to retrieve the package. Cameras watched him, but so did court bailiffs. Smith was pulled aside and searched. Following a review of surveillance video, Smith and Fernandez were each charged with multiple felonies.