LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT/KATV) - At least three deaths of inmates over a one-month period last year in Arkansas prisons can be attributed to the use of synthetic marijuana, a Little Rock television station reported this week.
According to a report from Little Rock television station KATV, five inmates died in three different prisons during a 23-day period last August and September. K2, or synthetic cannabinoids, have been tied to three of the deaths while the remaining deaths are still under investigation.
Lisa Parker of Texarkana, whose brother, Devon Lemay died six weeks before he was scheduled to be released, said she got the word from the Arkansas State Crime Lab last month.
"I said there's gotta be a reason that that boy just falls dead," Parker said of her brother, who was being held at the East Arkansas Regional Unit,
Parker told the television station that her brother would write her letters, asking her for help in getting his life started again. She said she felt like the state agency did not want her to know what happened to her brother.
Also, the Sept. 2 death of Cody Brickner at Tucker Max was ruled by state police as a death by synthetic cannabinoid toxicity, while there was evidence of K2 abuse by Kenneth Jones, who was found dead Sept. 9 at Cummins, KATV reported.
Jones had been serving a 25-year sentence out of Baxter County when he was found dead, KATV reported.
KATV also reported that they heard from state prison officials about the issue.
According to the report, ADC has installed new body scanning equipment at its maximum security facilities while six officers have received training to investigate major contraband rings.
There has also been an increase in contraband cases leading to prosecutions, officials say. The department prosecuted 23 cases in 2016 with eight convictions, up from the 13 cases and two convictions in 2015.
Officials are still adding up the numbers for 2017, KATV said.