Even more inmate deaths have been connected to K2, also called synthetic marijuana, according to Jason Pederson of KATV, who is tweeting out details this morning.
UPDATE (3:09 p.m.): He said that the state Crime Lab says ten
seven inmates’ deaths were caused by K2 between July 2016 and Aug. 31, five more deaths where K2 is related but could not be confirmed.
His longer report will be aired on KATV tonight at 10.
Pederson told us he will be profiling twelve K2-related deaths during the report: half occurred in the July 2016 to Aug. 31,
This follows the Arkansas Times‘ report about the rise of K2 use in prisons and multiple deaths associated with its use. K2-related incidents went from just 6 in 2013 to 707 in the first seven months of 2017, according to the Arkansas Department of Correction.
K2 is not one thing but, instead, a mixture of synthetic cannabinoids that bind to the same site as the active ingredient in marijuana. Unlike marijuana though, K2 can be deadly. The complexity of the drug makes it hard to detect and popular among populations that need to pass drug tests, such as prisoners.
The state Crime Lab has struggled to find strains of K2 in autopsies because of the difficulty in detecting it. Also, most drug overdoses are from ingesting multiple substances, and this further complicates toxicological reports. K2’s symptoms are varied — from vomiting to death to psychotic episodes. Someone jumping off a balcony could be high on K2.
This has left a series of inmate deaths that prisoners, guards and even internal ADC emails indicate were believed to have been caused by K2, but were not reported as related to the drug.
One example of this is the death of Julian Shavers, a 38-year-old inmate who guards found covered in vomit in his cell. A “blunt,” or rolled cigarette, of
KATV has reported that Shaver’s death was caused not by K2 but another drug, according to Shavers’ sister. Nonetheless, a guard told the Times Shavers was high on K2 when he died.
Here are other deaths that have been connected to K2 so far by KATV via Twitter:
* Donnie Nahlen, 64, died April 17 at Cummins. Nahlen was found to have died from natural causes, but his wife says he was healthy and a fellow inmate says he died after smoking K2. Nahlen’s wife says he told her before his death that the guards are bringing drugs in.
The ADC has never acknowledged that multiple deaths were caused by K2. However, Director Wendy Kelley and other top officials — according to internal emails and former guards who spoke to the Times — know that K2 has been a factor in deaths.
The ADC said it has responded to K2 by putting up signs and holding informational sessions on the dangers while also cracking down on contraband. But, according to multiple prisoners, the response to a person high on K2 has been to send them to an isolated cell, away from medical care they might need.
A prisoner, who spoke to the Times this week, said that inmates are still isolated when caught high on
It is unclear if there has been a crackdown on prison employees who, in our reporting, have been described as the main source of K2 and other contraband.