Though its population is relatively small, with just over 600 detainees, Ohio’s Montgomery County Jail lost seven of them in the first seven months of 2023. That’s more jail deaths than the combined total in the state’s five most populous counties. It’s just one less than the number of deaths at Rikers Island in New York City, which has ten times the incarcerated population.
The causes of the deaths varied from complications related to narcotics withdrawals or overdoses to mental health crises and suicide. Notably, all seven who died were held in pre-trial detention – meaning they had not been convicted of a crime.
Sheriff Rob Streck called his jail’s population among the most physically and mentally ill – as well as the most addicted – that he has ever encountered. But critics argue that jails are not equipped to handle detainees with extreme medical needs or significant mental health issues.
NaphCare, the private Alabama-based company that holds a $13 million contract to provide mental and physical healthcare at the jail, suggested that the opioid crisis may have contributed to the deaths. But the firm has faced lawsuits and criticism for its performance in various jails across the country, including allegations of overcharging for services and inadequate medical care leading to deaths.
In 2019, the County reportedly paid $3.5 million to settle a suit filed by the estate of Robert A. Richardson, Sr., who was jailed for unpaid child support in 2012 when he suffered a seizure, to which jailers and medical staffers responded by handcuffing him until he was dead. NaphCare reportedly paid an additional $500,000 toward that $4 million total settlement. See: Beyoglides v. Montgomery Cty. Sheriff Dep’t, USDC (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 3:14-cv-00158.
The company nevertheless maintains its contracts with Montgomery County until at least 2026. Meanwhile the county has announced plans to renovate the jail and increase the number of special needs beds. That just comes too late for the seven people already dead this year:
Terry Clemmons, 47, suffered a medical emergency and died at the jail on July 27, 2023; he had been booked the day before on a felony weapons charge.
Gerald Ford, 47, also suffered a medical emergency and died 10 hours after being booked on June 10, 2023, in the jail’s direct supervision unit, where detoxing detainees are held along with those with medical conditions.
Amanda K. Campbell, 44, died on April 2, 2023, two days after she was booked on charges of fencing stolen goods; the Sheriff’s office said the death was “naturally caused because of her extensive health issues.”
Isaiah Trammell, 19, died on March 16, 2023, three days after his arrest for domestic violence; he had been transported to a hospital from the jail after a self-inflicted “blunt force head trauma,” in what the coroner’s office later said was a suicide.
Amber Goonan, 41, was also taken from the jail to a hospital where she died on February 24, 2023, five days after her arrest for drug possession; the cause of death was “multiple drug intoxication” including fentanyl, the coroner’s office said.
Aaron Dixon, 52, was also arrested on drug charges four days before he died on January 13, 2023, of “fentanyl and buprenorphine intoxication,” the coroner’s office said.
Steven D. Blackshear, 54, was the first to die at the jail this year on January 29, 2023, three days after his arrest for misdemeanor theft; the coroner’s office blamed “intoxication by fentanyl,” adding that “[a]therosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease were contributing conditions.”
Additional sources: BlackNews, Dayton Daily News, WHIO
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