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Arizona Jail Detention Officer Arrested for Dealing Meth, Fentanyl

The sheriff of the Lower Buckeye Jail, Phoenix, Arizona, shut down drug on-demand, right from the jail guard.

Paul Penzone from Maricopa County states that a deputy was taken into custody for trying to transport methamphetamines and fentanyl to the Lower Buckeye Jail, Phoenix.

Fox 10 reports that Andres Salzar is being held on several drug-related felonies. Salazar was trying to enter the jail with a package of about 100 pills in his possession when he made a cash exchange.

“This was an ongoing investigation,” Penzone said at a press conference on Jan. 11. “This detention officer was hired in October 2019, recently worked with inmates and some folks on the outside, and attempted to bring fentanyl and methamphetamine into the jail.”

Salazar apparently wasn’t very good at it, a regrettable choice that will impact his future. “We have Forever strong reason to believe this was his first attempt,” the sheriff said.

“This young man, whatever led him to make this decision, will now not only lose his career, but most likely the future that he has for himself is definitely going to be hindered in an adverse way,” Penzone said.

Maricopa County has a serious drug problem. In 2022 there were 172 drug-related deaths and 17 overdose deaths. 194 prisoners tested positive to drugs through a urine test.

According to the County, 150 prisoner postcards found infected with methamphetamine and fentanyl were intercepted by mailroom staff. “Since October 2022, 1,503 detention officers, sergeants and lieutenants were trained to deploy Narcan,” the sheriff said.

An American Pattern of Criminal Justice System

This kind of thing isn’t unheard of in the criminal justice system: In 2021, Marc Antrim, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced for orchestrating a fake drug raid, stealing over half a ton of cannabis and $600,000 in cash from a warehouse. 

In 2018, three South Carolina prison guards were charged with smuggling drug and contraband to two correctional facilities. A guard tried to sneak in about five ounces or 143 grams of marijuana into one detention facility.

Are you thinking that drug use is impossible in prisons or jails? Think again: According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there are “high” rates of substance use within the criminal justice system. Specifically, some research shows that an estimated 65% percent of the United States prison population has an “active substance abuse disorder,” and they have to get those drugs from somewhere. It’s one of the best arguments to say that drugs won the War on Drugs.

Maricopa County has made some changes to tackle the problem.

Maricopa County Fights Drugs CorruptionJail

Penzone will now take proactive measures to ensure that incidents such as these don’t happen again. KTAR News reported Wednesday that Penzone will shortly install scanning machines in jailhouses for detecting drugs and contraband as authorities announce.

“I’m at a stage now where I think it’s not only important but appropriate that we purchase scanning machines so that every individual who enters our jail—whether it be staff/volunteers—anybody and everyone who enters into the secured population will be checked to determine if we can mitigate and intercept any potential contraband coming into the jail,” Penzone said.

“If we need to upgrade the entire system in the entire jail system, I’m willing to do that,” Penzone said. “But we’re going to find the one that is the most effective and put it in play in all of our jails as soon as possible.”

Fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other drugs are considered high-risk.

Fentanyl, according to the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA), is considered the most dangerous drug in America. “In 2021, a record number of Americans—107,622—died from a drug poisoning or overdose,” the DEA release reads. “Sixty-six percent of those deaths can be attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”