An inmate who died at Cumberland County Prison earlier this month died of a fentanyl overdose, according to Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.
Around 8:49 p.m. Jan. 9, William Keller, 28, an inmate from Harrisburg, was found unresponsive in a male work release housing unit, according to a news release issued by the county. Keller later died.
An autopsy and toxicology were done to determine the man’s cause of death. Hall said Tuesday those reports showed Keller died from a fentanyl overdose.
Narcan was used to attempt to revive Keller, Cumberland County Prison Warden Earl Reitz said. While substance use and addiction are not new to the prison, this is the first time Narcan has been used within the prison, Reitz said.
“Correctional staff, medical staff and ultimately EMS worked valiantly to keep this guy alive,” Reitz said. “I can’t stress that enough.”
More than a third of all inmates entering the prison in 2015 were given some kind of medication to detox from substance use, according to county records. Reitz said there are now eight to 11 inmates detoxing at the prison at any given time.
Keller was a trusty residing in a male work release housing unit at the time of his death, Reitz said. A trusty is an inmate who typically does work for the county or local municipalities and is authorized to work outside the prison while awaiting other employment.
Keller was sentenced to nine to 23 months in county prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanor receiving stolen property in July and authorized for work release, according to court records.
How the fentanyl made its way into the prison is subject to a criminal investigation by Middlesex Township Police — where the prison is located — Reitz said. He said policy requires all inmates be strip-searched when returning to the prison from outside work.
“I am confident that the inmates are being strip-searched by policy and procedure,” Reitz said.
However, contraband remains a problem.
“Contraband is a problem and the opioid epidemic amplifies that problem immensely,” Reitz said. “It is a problem that correctional staff and jails across the nation face on a daily basis.”
The number of people charged with attempting to bring controlled substances into the prison has risen sharply during the last several years. In 2015, only one person was charged with possession of controlled substance contraband at the prison, according to court records. That number rose to 10 in 2017, court records show.
This includes all people coming into the prison and not just work-release inmates. However, Reitz said this is only a portion of the instances at the prison. He said not all instances are caught and not all instances when caught result in criminal charges.
Reitz said the No. 1 contraband item that people try to get into the prison is not illicit drugs, but rather tobacco products.