Monday, US News reported on an independent investigation carried out by the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina. It revealed that 51 prison inmates died in North Carolina county jails over a 5-year period. Investigations found that these inmates were left unsupervised against state regulations.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety Regulations
In the State of North Carolina, detention officers are require,d according to state regulations, to check inmates as frequently as twice every hour. Those with suicidal tendencies or mental illnesses should be checked several times within any given hour.
Detention officers are also required to document these prisoner cell checks. Not doing so explains why so many prison inmates died in North Carolina county jails in such a short time frame.
Investigations Into Why Prison Inmates Died in North Carolina County Jails
Investigations reveal detention officers shirked their duties in this regard and did not check prison inmates as frequently as they ought to. This gave high-risk inmates the leeway to harm themselves.
To this extent, 51 prison inmates died in North Carolina county jails within just five years. They all lost their lives within 38 detention centers across the state.
Aside from regularly checking in on inmates, detention officers are also required to ensure that high-risk inmates do not have any objects that could be used to harm themselves in any way.
The Death of Prisoner Terry Demetrius Lee
But, this was not the case in 2013 when 21-year-old NC inmate Terry Demetrius Lee. This prisoner hung himself on the bars of his cell window in a Durham County Jail.
Subsequent investigations revealed Lee was mentally ill. He had been left unsupervised for six hours according to observation logs. A detention officer was fired for dereliction of duty.
Jeffrey Schwartz, a jail security expert revealed that county jail sheriffs should take the personal security of prison inmates very seriously. He noted that jail inmates’ deaths are symptomatic of supervision lapses across county jails. They are a nasty development that detention officers should urgently address.
But, Mike Andrews, Durham County Sheriff, was quick to defend detention officers by stating that “we’re not insensitive people,” Andrews added that as a jail administrator, he takes the security of inmates as a matter of high priority.
The 113 jails in North Carolina are packed with about 24,000 inmates. So, the issues of overcrowdedness and understaffing have been top agendas with NC county commissions.
“‘We all have families and we all have loved ones and have had those we know that have been incarcerated,’ he said. ‘So I don’t want anything to happen to anybody, and neither do the men and women who work here in this facility.'”
Video: Family of Prisoner Patrick O’Malley Speaks of His Death in a NC County Jail
Share Your Thoughts on Prison Suicides
Prison suicides are becoming a major epidemic in this country. Many are never reported in the news media.
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Charles Omedo has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches. He currently writes prison news for loved ones of inmates on the Prison Rideshare Network.