More charges filed as sheriff’s office tackles illicit drugs in Cook County jail

CHICAGO — Two inmates charged with having drug-laced paper inside the Cook County jail are the latest to face felony charges as authorities continue to root out trafficking of the materials behind jail walls.

Alexander Hansen, a 19-year-old being held on armed robbery and gun charges, had drug-soaked paper in his sock on April 27, the sheriff’s office said in a statement Wednesday.

On April 28, jail workers allegedly found drug-soaked papers in a notebook carried by Kiante Byrd, 22, who is awaiting trial for first-degree murder.

The papers recovered from both men tested positive for synthetic cannabinoids, according to the sheriff’s office.

They are each charged with felony possession of contraband in a penal institution.

Kiante Byrd (left) and Alexander Hansen | Cook County sheriff’s office

Hansen is accused of working with a juvenile to rob two people that they allegedly lured to the 6900 block of West Shakespeare by advertising a phone for sale online, according to court records. Chicago police said he had a gun with no serial number in his backpack when they arrested him.

Byrd is accused of fatally shooting 18-year-old high school student Lazarra Daniels on May 31, 2020, a day that saw 18 murders in Chicago, the most in 60 years. Byrd was on bail for a felony drug charge at the time.

Paper problems

Last month, the sheriff’s office announced charges against three people who allegedly tried to import drug-soaked papers into the jail.

Dwain Johnson, 20, who is currently on trial for murder, offered a jail employee $1,500 to pick up laced papers from his girlfriend and bring them into the facility, prosecutors said.

Instead of doing that, the correctional officer went to their supervisor, launching an investigation. Police arrested Claudio after she delivered the papers to an undercover investigator at the North Riverside Park Mall on May 18, officials said.

One week later, prosecutors charged a jail contractor’s employee who allegedly had $125,000 worth of cannabinoid-soaked papers in her possession as she prepared to make a delivery.

The sheriff’s office enacted new restrictions on paper in April after two private defense attorneys were caught bringing contaminated papers into the facility for client meetings. Under the new rules, defense attorneys who want to bring paperwork to client meetings must schedule an appointment so the documents can be inspected. Correctional workers and county employees are also barred from taking paper into the jail unless it is work- or union-related.

Investigations into the private defense lawyers who allegedly brought contaminated papers into the facility remain active.

Sources familiar with the Cook County jail’s operations believe smuggled drugs are responsible for increasing in-custody deaths.

Medical examiner records show that 12 people have died in jail this year. Three passed of natural causes, and one was murdered. The causes and manners of death in the other eight cases have yet to be determined.

By comparison, there were seven jail deaths during all of last year, two of which were attributed to drug ingestion. In 2021, two of the jail’s ten deaths were the result of drug use, according to medical examiner records.