Three inmates hospitalized in suspected drug-related incident at L.A. County jail in Castaic

A guard tower next to barbed wire fences at a jail
Seventeen inmates “appeared to be affected in some way” by medical emergencies at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic on Tuesday morning. Initially, law enforcement said the incident likely involved fentanyl.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Three inmates were rushed to the hospital Tuesday morning from the Pitchess Detention Center in what authorities believe was a drug-related incident, officials said.

Seventeen inmates who were in the outdoor recreation area at the Castaic complex’s North County Correction Facility “appeared to be affected in some way and were medically evaluated,” said Assistant Sheriff Sergio Aloma.

“Preliminary information suggests they may have ingested a controlled substance,” according to a statement from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.


Paramedics answered a call for medical assistance at the jail just before 10:30 a.m., said Henry Narvaez, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Three people were transported to a hospital — one in critical condition and two in moderate condition. The remaining 14 were treated at the scene.

Garrett Miller, president of the L.A. County public defenders union, said attorneys were notified that the facility was locked down in emails sent at 10:30 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. but that they hadn’t been given any further details and did not yet know whether any of their clients were among the three hospitalized.

Initially, law enforcement said the incident likely involved fentanyl.

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Although the Sheriff’s Department in 2021 launched a program to make naloxone — a nasal spray that can reverse opioid overdoses — freely available inside the county jails, Aloma said it’s not accessible to inmates in the outdoor recreation areas “due to weather” concerns.

After the men passed out, officials locked down the whole facility and investigators began reviewing video footage to determine what happened, Aloma said.

“We are trying to determine right now the specific source of what caused this,” he said.

Several days later, Commander Stacy Morgan said further testing had determined the substance was not fentanyl, and that officials instead suspected that it was a synthetic drug known as K2.

Times staff writer Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.