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Problems Persist at Lucas County, Ohio Jail

Last month, PLN reported that four officials with the Sheriff’s Office in Lucas County, Ohio, including Sheriff James Telb, had been indicted on federal charges related to the June 1, 2004 death of jail prisoner Carlton Benton. [See: PLN, Oct. 2009, p.48]. Apparently that is not the only problem involving the Lucas County jail.

On October 14, 2008, following a five-day trial and 2½ hours of deliberations, a federal jury found Lucas County jail guard Seth Bunke guilty of three civil rights violations. He was found not guilty of two other charges related to beating prisoners.

One of Bunke’s convictions was for stopping and detaining a suspected drunken driver on March 13, 2007 and portraying himself as a police officer, when he was only a jail guard. The two other convictions were for assaulting prisoners on May 6, 2007 and July 11, 2007. Federal prosecutors proved that Bunke repeatedly kicked prisoner Jeffrey Jones in the head and side after a verbal altercation during a strip search. Jones had to be hospitalized for several days with a col-lapsed lung.

Bunke was taken into custody after the verdicts were read. He was sentenced on March 9, 2009 to 48 months in fed-eral prison and three years supervised release; the court also recommended that he obtain mental health counseling. See: United States v. Bunke, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ohio), Case No. 3:08-cr-00065-JZ.

On June 1, 2009, the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office revised its use-of-force policy. “We’ve improved it over the years, but usually an incident will happen and we take a look at how it could happen and make changes,” said Sheriff Telb, who remains under indictment for lying to federal officials during the investigation into Carlton Benton’s death. The updated policy specifies what types of force jail guards should use in “situations when nonlethal force is authorized.”

Presumably, the new policy will result in fewer incidents in which prisoners are abused – or killed – by jail employees.


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