Inmates at the Lee County Jail got a surprise Tuesday when a team of jailers, narcotics agents and detectives with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office “tossed the cells” looking for contraband. On this day, officers didn’t find any illegal drugs or weapons, but did confiscate a large stash of jail canteen food from one inmate’s cell and took a large bag of toothbrushes, which inmates have in the past sharpened into makeshift knives, from another.
Sheriff Tracy Carter said such searches will be held regularly not only to keep jail staff safe, but also to protect inmates.
“We want to make sure our inmates are treated well,” Carter said. The searches mostly entailed officers going through cells as the inmates stood outside. Buvi, the department’s drug sniffing dog, was brought along to help. After the search, Carter said that even items such as large stashes of food are considered safety hazards and health violations. “Jail inspectors can come in here and shut us down if we don’t keep things healthy and safe,” he said. “We have to take precautions to prevent inmates from hoarding up food. They may be selling them or gambling for them.” While most of the inmates cooperated with the searches, some questioned the jail staff and deputies who were on hand. “I feel violated,” one said from his cell, to the laughter of other inmates. Another demanded angrily to know why his cell was being searched. Carter said such behavior by inmates was a perfect example of why jail staff have one of the hardest jobs in law enforcement. “These guys are out here on the front lines every day,” he said. “They’re dealing with criminals all day long.”