A 27-year old Lubbock County jailer has been arrested in connection with a drug bust after she allegedly attempted to smuggle fentanyl to inmates.
Taylor Millett faces a first-degree felony charge of possession and intent to deliver a controlled substance in connection with a drug bust and operation that Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe said he personally witnessed.
Rowe hosted a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Lubbock County Detention Center, where Millett had been an employee for two years. Officials said she was arrested in the 1900 block of Marsha Sharp Freeway and was booked into the jail on Tuesday after she was arrested shortly after 1 p.m.
"Unfortunately, I'm standing before you today because we just had to bring in one of our own in for purchasing fentanyl with an intent to deliver to an inmate or inmates inside the facility as well as, it sounds like, for personal use," Rowe said during the news conference.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, remains the deadliest drug threat facing the country. Last year, a record number of Americans – 107,622 – died from a drug poisoning or overdose, with 66 percent of those deaths linked to to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
"We've had issues with that stuff when it gets in here," Rowe said. "It's so highly dangerous - the quantities we're seeing coming through Lubbock right now, the amount of overdoses that's attributed to it."
Rowe said Millett was arrested before she could smuggle any drugs into the jail.
"We had some good luck on this one," he said. "... We were able to obtain some information that led to ultimately doing what we refer to as a reversal. So, in other words, she came with the intent of buying product and found that she was purchasing from an undercover officer and an arrest was immediately made and of course she was brought out here."
Rowe said he was present at the undercover operation.
"I want to handle them myself," he said. "I mean, again, we hold these guys to a high standard and obviously this is not something we see every day, but when one crosses that line, we're going to be right there to address it."
Rowe said investigators believe a portion of the drugs Millett sought to buy was for personal use. He said the investigation into Millett came as a surprise to his staff.
"One of the things that investigators took note of was she absolutely had nothing record-wise - not so much as even a traffic ticket," he said.
Rowe said more arrests are unlikely in connection to the plan to smuggle the drugs into the jail since it was interrupted with Millett's arrest.
"Given the circumstances -- I don't want to get too far off into the details -- but quite frankly, any inmate involvement in this was never followed through," he said.
Rowe said situations such as Millett's are rare. Jail officials have put in place measures to restrict inmates from accessing items outside the jail.
"We've moved away from inmates directly receiving mail; all of that is done electronically now," he said. "We've got body scanners not unlike what you see at the airport for when they're either coming in as a new book-in or coming back in from work detail outside."
However, drug addiction remains the root cause of the criminal conduct that brings many inmates to the jail. Though the detention center offers substance abuse programs for inmates, many still struggle with addiction that leads them to find ways to bring the drugs into the jail.
"When they come in here it's cold turkey," Rowe said. "We'll treat the withdrawal symptoms based on what's going on. But it's a cold turkey stop so if they can find a means, and unfortunately, if they can identify a weak officer or whatever the case might be that they're able to talk into doing something like this. Again, I can't fathom it myself."
Rowe said investigators are continuing to pursue the case to potentially present to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the filing of federal charges.
"So that we send a message out there that this is certainly not going to be tolerated," he said.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Lubbock jailer accused of attempting to smuggle fentanyl to inmates