Lawyers call for bet­ter ac­cess to life-sav­ing drug to com­bat opi­oid over­doses in prison

The Mercury News - - Local News - By Don Thomp­son [email protected]­curyNews.com

SACRA­MENTO >> A pair of sus­pected fa­tal over­doses on Cal­i­for­nia’s death row this week has in­creased the call for prison guards and in­mates to carry a drug to help those who over­dose on opi­oids.

the cause, be­cause there are no ad­verse side-ef­fects, said Liz Gransee, a spokes­woman for the fed­eral re­ceiver. She and cor­rec­tions of­fi­cials could not im­me­di­ately com­ment on the re­quest to ex­pand its avail­abil­ity.

Any­one can now eas­ily ob­tain nalox­one at a drug store af­ter un­der­go­ing brief train­ing in how to ad­min­is­ter the in­haler, Fama said, so he said even in­mates should be trained in its use.

Au­top­sies are set for to­day for Joseph Perez Jr. and Her­minio Serna, who died while await­ing ex­e­cu­tion at San Quentin State Prison north of San Fran­cisco. But the Marin County coro­ner’s of­fice said tox­i­col­ogy re­sults could take weeks.

In the mean­time, prison of­fi­cials are in­ves­ti­gat­ing how con­tra­band may have

been brought into death row and are in­creas­ing ed­u­ca­tion to in­mates on the dan­gers of abus­ing il­licit drugs.

Serna, 53, was one of three men sen­tenced to death for killings com­mit­ted dur­ing ef­forts by the Nues­tra Fa­milia gang to take over the drug trade in San Jose. Perez, 47, was sen­tenced to death for the 1998 killing of a woman who was stabbed and stran­gled dur­ing a rob­bery of her home in sub­ur­ban Lafayette.

Aside from drugs, of­fi­cials are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing how an in­mate on the highly se­cure death row ob­tained the weapon used to kill 30-year-old Jonathan Fajardo in Oc­to­ber.

Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials have spent mil­lions of dol­lars sys­temwide, with lim­ited suc­cess, to stem the

smug­gling of con­tra­band by in­mates, vis­i­tors and em­ploy­ees. They blamed smug­gled Fen­tanyl for killing one in­mate and sick­en­ing 11 oth­ers at an­other North­ern Cal­i­for­nia prison in April.

“It’s ob­vi­ously ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to stop be­cause you’re talk­ing about grains of Fen­tanyl that can be lethal,” Fama said.

Prison of­fi­cials blamed “acute drug tox­i­c­ity” for the deaths of con­demned in­mates Emilio Ava­los in Novem­ber 2017 and Joe Henry Ab­bott in Jan­uary. They are the most re­cent since over­doses were blamed for killing two con­demned in­mates in 2005.

Cor­rec­tions de­part­ment spokes­woman Terry Thorn­ton said prison of­fi­cials rely on coroners to de­ter­mine the cause of death.

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