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LMDC leaders in hot seat after four inmate deaths

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 11:47 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Four people have died while in custody at Louisville Metro Department of Corrections over the past year.

On Wednesday, the Public Safety Committee had LMDC Administrators testify to answer why inmates are dying and how it can be fixed.

Public Safety Committee members said more needs to be done to recruit quality corrections officers and clean up the environment in the jail; eliminating fights and especially deaths.

Wednesday afternoon’s meeting began with Metro Corrections Director Dwayne Clark reading off the names of those who have died in custody so far in 2021.

To Councilman Mark Fox’s disappointment, Clarke still couldn’t confidently give him an answer, after he was asked to clarify how many people have died in the jail.

”I got to level with you,” said Fox (D-13). “You make it hard for me, when you start out with not knowing how many people lost their lives in your custody over the course of a year.”

Metro Corrections FOP President Daniel Johnson testified shortly thereafter and confirmed four inmates have died and one is too many.

The first inmate died in May, but no details were given because of pending litigation. Two other inmates died of alleged heart conditions, those autopsies are still pending. The fourth died after committing suicide.

Councilman James Peden said the fatalities are a product of lack of corrections officers. He said if there were more of them, they would be able to check on inmates more than the 30-minute standard.

”The process of again, climbing up, affixing yourself and without any other trauma,” Peden (D-23) said. “We’re looking at a 15 to 20-minute process.”

Public Safety Chairwoman Jessica Green said LMDC leaders didn’t come to ask for help or resources to remedy the issue, but urged them to come up with concrete solutions.

”Most of us are aware there’s a crisis at corrections right now,” Green said.

Meanwhile, LMDC administration said the real issue is that jails are overcrowded and inmates are coming in with long-term illnesses.

”Unfortunately, people are going to pass away and it happens in our facility,” LMDC Associate Director Steve Durham said. “We look back to see what we can improve on this and make things better, we all expect it to not happen and it’s not going to occur, but we know it’s going to and it’s sad.”

Former inmate Chaunda Lee finally got a chance to ask Clarke about the issues she’s faced.

”There’s a phrase, ‘Innocent until proven guilty,’” Lee said. “When people get charged and go to jail, they are guilty until proven innocent. Even when [the jail was] fully staffed, people got hurt! What do you have to say for that?”

Clark told the former inmate he would gladly speak with her in private to go over facts.

A proposed solution came from the ACLU Representative asking the Mayor to keep officers from arresting non-violent offenders and asking judges to stop filing bench warrants for non-violent offenses.

Clark said the FBI is investigating a civil rights lawsuit.

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