LMDC inmate dies; third inmate death of the year

This is the third LMDC inmate death of this year.
Published: Feb. 6, 2022 at 9:58 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2022 at 12:27 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Assistant Director of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections Steve Durham confirmed an inmate died who attempted suicide while in custody on Sunday has died.

It happened around 12:00 A.M. when an LMDC officer was conducting a security round, and found an inmate had attempted suicide by hanging, Durham said.

The man was identified as Lesley Starnes.

(Story continues below photo)

Leslie Starnes died after trying to hang himself at the Louisville Metro Department of...
Leslie Starnes died after trying to hang himself at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections on Feb. 6.(LMDC)

Officers, medical staff and emergency personnel responded and immediately began life-saving measures.

EMS took Starnes to University of Louisville Hospital, where he died around 1:00 A.M., Durham said.

The 36-year-old was booked into Metro Corrections on Jan. 26 after he was arrested on a Bullitt County warrant for felony non-support charges with $5,000 bond, Durham said.

As part of standard procedure, the inmate’s death is being investigated by the LMPD Public Integrity Unit. Jail director Dwayne Clark has also ordered the LMDC Professional Standards Unit to review the case.

Both Durham and Clark said they are discussing the jail procedures and analyzing possible fixes.

“We know it happens,” Durham said. “We’re working hard. We’ve asked our mental health team to put extra energy into this, to assess this, to see if there are things that we’re not doing that we can do and do better. Because that’s what we want to do. We don’t want anymore deaths and we certainly don’t want a suicide.”

“We’ve challenged the mental health staff here to increase some mental health professional hours and examine their questionnaire, screening tool, to see if there’s anything we can add to it to catch some of this,” Clark said.

Clark told reporters mental health counseling was provided to inmates through a contract with Wellpath. Clark said currently, there are 12 mental health professionals employed by the jail and roughly 1,450 inmates.

Louisville Metro Council President David James was present at Sunday’s news conference and said the jail’s problems come down to a lack of leadership.

“There needs to be an overhaul of the jail, leadership of the jail,” James said. “Not just Director Clark, the executive staff and Director Clark.

Last week, James partnered with two other Metro Councilmembers to file a resolution calling for a vote of no confidence against Clark, claiming a lack of effort to fix the jail’s problems.

James told reporters Sunday’s news conference showed more of the same to him.

“I did not feel a sense of urgency from the things that the Mayor had to say today and this has been going on for so long,” James said. “So that’s why I go back to a change in leadership. This is all about leadership.”

Clark was asked if he would step down as LMDC Director. He declined to comment.

This is not the first time Clark’s leadership has been called into question.

Back in September, Metro Corrections Fraternal Order of Police voted 216 to 6 that they had no confidence in Director Clark and his administration.

Starnes’s death marks the third LMDC inmate death of 2022 and the sixth in the past 90 days.

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