CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Petersburg man is facing new charges after an intake X-ray scan at the Chesterfield County Jail Tuesday showed what appeared to be drugs concealed inside his body, a trend that Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard said is becoming increasingly common.
According to a release, John J. Andrews, Jr. was arrested Tuesday and committed to the jail without bond on three felony probation charges out of Brunswick County. As is the case with all new committals to the jail, while being processed, in addition to fingerprints and photographs, authorities conducted a full-body scan on Andrews.
The X-ray revealed a cylinder-shaped object in his abdominal area. Sheriff’s deputies said that Andrews later produced the object, which consisted of two bags containing the suspected drugs.
“[It] wasn’t fentanyl. It was Suboxone, we believe. We’re going to wait for the state lab to actually do its toxicology report,” Sheriff Leonard said. “But it’s just as dangerous, and we don’t want people in the jail being under the influence of anything, even something like Suboxone.”
Suboxone is a prescription medication that can be used to treat narcotic dependence. However, Chesterfield County Jail inmate Amber Nunnally said that it can also be abused.
“It gibes you the feeling of being on heroin or fentanyl, or whichever,” she said. “I would get it off the street if I couldn’t get heroin. That’s basically what it makes you feel like, if you do enough of it. You nod off. I did Suboxone too much one time, and I was sick for 24 hours.”
Nunnally said that she was cited for possession of heroin in 2016, and has been in and out of jail since then after several probation violations.
“I’m 35 years old now. I had my son in 2020 in Riverside [Regional Jail], and that’s when I was on Suboxone,” she said. “I got tired, and I was downstairs and I was like, you know, ‘I’m going to try something different.'”
Nunnally is now part of the jail’s Helping Addicts Recover Progressively (HARP) program. But she said if she was earlier in her recovery, another inmate bringing in drugs like Suboxone to her pod may have been a trigger.
“The ones in HARP are in here to recover, and that’s a big trigger for a lot of people, especially really new in recovery,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it. That’s a whole other charge, is possession on a prisoner. It’s really not worth it, unless you like being locked up.”
Since installing the body scanner in 2019, Sergeant Jason Danby and Sheriff Leonard said that the sheriff’s office has found numerous cases of smuggling, which has seemed to increase in recent months.
“It has helped us identify a number of things — any metal is detected immediately,” Danby said. “It’s helped us find drugs, it’s helped us find weapons, it’s helped us find all kinds of stuff that had been missed, and keep it from getting into the back of the jail.”
Incoming inmates are typically searched by Chesterfield Police and then sheriff’s deputies before being brought to the X-ray scanner.
Just outside the scanning room, there is a red line on the floor, where Leonard said inmates are given a final opportunity to state whether they have anything on or in them that they shouldn’t.
“When everybody comes into our jail, we’re very upfront with them about it,” he said. “We have a sign up there with the red line; said, “Before you cross this line, you need to let us know if you have anything concealed on you, if you have anything contraband on you. We need to know before you cross this line because once you cross that line, you’re now in our physical custody, and now, you’re in a correctional facility and these other laws apply.'”
Andrews, for example, is now being charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance, a class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. He is being held without bond, pending his pre-trial.
“There’s constantly being attempts to smuggle drugs into this jail and all jails,” Leonard said. “We’re really on guard now, more than ever, about the potential for illegal drugs, specifically fentanyl, getting into the back of the jail. Yesterday’s scan was just another example of what we see on a normal basis. We’ve seen a marked increase again in the people that are showing anomalies through the X-rays. Fortunately, in these cases, we’re able to prevent it from getting to the back of the jail.”