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Several people arrested, commissary workers banned from Northern Branch Jail

Northern Branch Jail
Posted at 5:44 PM, Dec 14, 2022

Following recent overdose incidents at the County of Santa Barbara's Northern Branch Jail in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials say deputies have arrested several people for trying to bring illegal substances into the facility.

In addition, the Sheriff's Office reports that several contracted commissary workers at the jail were recently banned from the facility for security violations.

The new information came to light after a man who served time at the Northern Branch Jail last month came to KSBY with his concerns.

"The fentanyl is sweeping into our communities, and it is just causing so many issues. Mothers are grieving, fathers are grieving," said former inmate Kaden Bedard.

Bedard, who was booked into the Northern Branch Jail on November 24 for a probation violation, says he saw drug use and sales within the facility.

Since the jail opened in January, the Sheriff's Office has reported five inmate overdoses with the majority happening in October and November. One of those inmates died.

Overdoses North Branch Jail[8].png
Timeline of overdose incidents that have occurred at the Northern Branch Jail in Santa Maria.

Officials with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office would not say who was arrested for trying to bring illegal substances into the facility or whether they are inmates, contractors, or jail employees.

As for the banned commissary workers, officials also would not say what type of security violations occurred but that none of the workers were arrested.

Sheriff's Public Information Officer Raquel Zick says the jail's commissary staff work for Keefe Group, a company that provides commissary services to correctional facilities across the country.

KSBY reached out multiple times to the Keefe Group's corporate media team for comment, leaving phone messages and emails, but we did not hear back.

Addressing concerns about overdose, on Monday, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office held a naloxone, or Narcan, training session for more than 90 inmates at the Northern Branch Jail. Sheriff's officials say it was intended to increase awareness about the dangers of opioid overdoses that happen in the community, as well as in their own custody facilities.

Recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that California has the third-highest mortality rate from overdoses behind bars. The same report also shows that overdose-related deaths in county jails across the United States have increased by more than 200% between 2001 and 2018.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office tells KSBY its investigation into the recent incidents at the Northern Branch Jail is ongoing.

Zick says the county's contract with the Keefe Group will continue.