One inmate at Mule Creek State Prison has died and 11 others were treated over the weekend for what authorities say are suspected drug overdoses at the facility in Ione.
Ten inmates were taken to hospitals because of the incident, and eight have since returned to the prison about 45 miles southeast of Sacramento, officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Monday in response to queries from The Bee.
"An inmate who was discovered unresponsive in his cell April 22 was pronounced dead later that evening despite the immediate lifesaving efforts of staff and outside emergency responders," the corrections department said in an email. "The names of the inmates involved are being withheld due to medical privacy laws."
Officials did not reveal what drug caused the suspected overdoses or the area of the prison where it occurred, but said hazardous materials workers had sealed off cells in affected areas and were cleaning them.
"Inmate movement is limited at MCSP as the incidents are investigated," the department said. "The suspected overdoses were limited to one facility.
"Staff are being advised on proper precautions, and inmates are being educated on the dangers of abusing drugs. Medical and correctional staff are conducting wellness checks throughout the facility every 30 minutes."
Drug smuggling into California prisons has been a persistent problem for years as they are secretly slipped into facilities by visitors and staff, tossed over fences or even dropped by drones, according to various media reports.
California lawmakers approved more than $10 million starting in 2014-15 to stop the flow of illegal drugs into prisons, and a report last April for CDCR by UC Berkeley and the Public Policy Institute of California found that "drugs and drug use are prevalent in California prisons."
Drug testing of inmates at selected institutions found nearly 8 percent tested positive for a controlled substance, the study authors reported.
"The most commonly detected substances are opiates (4.2 percent), methamphetamines (1.4 percent), and cannabinoids (1.2 percent)," the study found. "Failure rates vary considerably across institutions."