Firestorm brews over deaths of three LMDC inmates

ACLU along with other organizations are putting pressure on Louisville metro for answer about the death of three inmates.
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:56 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The American Civil Liberties Union and Louisville Metro Department of Corrections staff members are speaking out regarding the three LMDC inmate deaths in one week.

LMDC confirmed one of the inmates died Monday due to prior health issues and was receiving adequate care while incarcerated. One woman died Friday night inside of her cell and the other Saturday from suicide.

Director of Communications Jessica Wethington released a statement from the Mayor’s Office on Monday.

“The Mayor and his team are saddened by the tragic inmate deaths that have occurred over the last week, and our thoughts are with their loved ones, as well as the hard-working men and women of LMDC. Preliminary reviews indicate the inmate deaths on Monday and Friday may be the result of natural causes. The inmate who died Saturday, sadly, chose to end her own life. All deaths are under investigation. Corrections leadership, including Director Clark, were on-site at the jail over the weekend assessing operations.”

“There is no doubt that the jail remains overcrowded and Director Clark has been working with the Kentucky Department of Corrections to get inmates moved, and is working with the Jefferson County Attorney’s office to address the issue of people being held in our jail on charges from other counties. We have seen improvement from those efforts with inmate population trending down from about 1,660 a few months ago to about 1,500 today during a period of unprecedented violence in our community. And last week, the Metro Corrections Executive Team met with ACLU representatives to share common concerns about overcrowding and the impact of cash bail. Corrections leadership and the FOP continue to evaluate the scheduling and staffing needs going forward.”

“Last week, we announced $12.8M from the mid-year budget adjustment for potential salary and wage adjustments for employees across Metro Government. Corrections officers have a very challenging job and we will be pushing this salary increase for employees with Metro Council after discussion with the Corrections Union. This is in addition to the recruitment and retention incentives announced in early September.”

WAVE 3 asked LMDC Administration, Mayor Greg Fischer and LMDC Fraternal Order of Police about the reason for the string of deaths.

“More people are coming to us with heart disease with kidney disease,” LMDC Assistant Director Steve Durham said.

LMDC added that on top of more people arriving sick, 85 percent of the those being booked have some type of health issue related to drug usage.

The FOP and corrections staff said due to staffing shortages, inmates are not able to be watched over and cared for as they should because there simply aren’t enough staff to get the job done.

“To have one or two people trying to handle a medical emergency versus five or 10 or even emergencies happening at the same time frame. The staffing levels absolutely correspond with the level of care we are able to provide,” LMDC FOP President Daniel Johnson said.

The Mayor agreed with LMDC administration that the repetition of inmate deaths are not because of inadequate staffing.

WAVE 3 News requested current LMDC inmate numbers. The jail capacity is 1,353. Currently, the jail is currently overcrowded by 159 inmates, meaning there are 1,512 locked behind bars.

While metro doesn’t agree that overcrowding and staffing shortages are behind the deaths, they said they are working to get more staff into the jail.

“We will continue with our recruiting so that we can get staffing back up in the jail. There is no secret we are down 20 to 30 percent,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said.

The ACLU is calling the three inmate deaths a crisis and is taking steps to contact the metro government and the local judiciary on immediate steps that can be taken to change what’s happening inside of LMDC.

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