Two women die from drug related incidents in Kent County Correctional Facility

13 Watchdog: Inmate deaths in the Kent County Correctional Facility

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - There's been one other drug overdose incident that Kent County Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young can recall in her 29 years of working here. 

But in the last two months, two inmates died in drug related incidents. 

Danielle Plunkett, 30, died in June and according to death certificate had methamphetamines in her system. 

Renae Lynn Heiss, 31, died in August. The toxicology reports are not back, but LaJoye-Young said they have reason to believe that Heiss' death was tied to opiates.

The death of these two women illustrate two different battles the county faces: those who ingest drugs prior to coming to jail and those who smuggle them inside. 

"It is what it is. Most people, not everybody but most, are impaired in someway when they come here," said LaJoye-Young. 

Plunkett turned herself in on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 for a probation violation. She was booked into jail at 8:09 p.m. and by Thursday, June 22 at 5:24 a.m. she was rushed to the hospital--where she later died. 

Plunkett's husband, Max Demorest, told the 13 Watchdog team in a text message that he believes his wife would still be alive if the correctional officers had done their job correctly. 

Young said in a death investigation they will first and foremost ensure that employees did everything they possibly could do to help. Any acts of negligence could result in repercussions, but Young said that was not the case in this Plunkett's death.  

As for Heiss, Young said they are taking every precautionary measure possible to stop drugs from circulating in the facility. 

The facility uses multiple drug dogs along with a body scanner to prevent drugs from entering the building.

But, it's not enough. 

"In order to thoroughly search a person coming in--I would need a search warrant for a body cavity search for every single person coming through the door," said LaJoye-Young. 

Heiss' family said they were told Renae was found with a pipe at her side. The toxicology reports are not back, so the department cannot confirm for certain which drugs she was using or where exactly she got them. 

The 13 Watchdog team will be following the investigation as it progresses.

LaJoye-Young also said the correctional facility will be piloting a program this fall that would allow inmates who are receiving medication through an outside program to receive them inside jail throughout their stay. 

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