Summit jail should focus on use of force, mental health, staff diversity – News – The Repository

KeepHealthCare.ORG – Summit jail should focus on use of force, mental health, staff diversity – News – The Repository


Amanda GarrettGateHouse Ohio Media

Antony Jones’ name was mentioned only once Tuesday afternoon during a working group of the Summit County Jail Operation Advisory Commission.

Yet many of the issues raised by Jones’ death last year following a struggle with deputies at the jail — how mentally ill inmates are housed and treated, how deputies are trained, how well the jail is staffed and more — were at the heart of a 90-minute discussion of new subcommittees.

Summit County Council member David Hamilton, who spearheaded the commission, Tuesday unveiled the group’s three areas of focus at the jail: re-evaluating use of force, inmate mental health care, staff diversity and deputy training; evaluating inmate services and overcrowding; and analyzing how much money the jail receives and how much it needs to safely house inmates.

“Our job now is research, recommend and report,” Hamilton told the commission Tuesday before it broke into three groups, each dedicated to digging into one of the three subcategories.

Akron NAACP President Judi Hill, Summit County Sheriff’s Capt. Shane Barker, retired deputy Bethanne Scruggs and J. Dean Carro, an attorney with Baker, Dublikar, Beck, Wiley & Mathews and professor emeritus at the University of Akron’s law school, grabbed a corner on a paired set of long folding tables and began digging into use of force and its accompanying issues.

Jail basics

Barker and Scruggs offered insight into some jail basics.

About 65 percent of inmates are black, yet blacks make up only about 25 percent of the jail staff.

When Barker, who is white, and Scruggs, who is black, joined the sheriff’s office more than 20 years ago, they said there was about one deputy to every 24 inmates. Now, there’s one deputy to every 48.

On top of that, the jail’s mental health unit holds only 24 inmates, Barker said. Yet deputies are often providing psychotropic medication to between 100 and 125 inmates.

“And those are only the people who have been diagnosed,” Barker said. “ I think there are others, but if they don’t ask and we don’t see it, they don’t get treatment.”

Every inmate’s mental health is evaluated at booking, but the pressure of jail can change things for people once inside, particularly during the opioid crisis.

He and others around the table agreed that opioid use and mental health issues often overlap. And suicides at the jail have at times been connected to addicts losing access to drugs.

“We used to have Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and now we don’t have the staff,” Barker said.

On average, deputies report a little more than two incidents involving use of force at the jail each month, he said.

“If you’re in jail for 30 days, you’ll interact with deputies about 20 times per day,” he said. “That I think puts (the use of force) numbers in perspective.”

Jones was not the first inmate with mental illness to die in the jail after a confrontation with deputies. In August 2006, Mark D. McCullaugh Jr. died after a violent struggle with sheriff’s deputies trying to subdue him. McCullaugh had a history of mental illness. The medical examiner put the cause of death as asphyxiation from blunt force blows and various forms of restraints, including pepper spray and shots from a stun gun.

Criminal charges followed against the deputies involved and there was a trial. Eventually, the deputies were cleared of criminal wrongdoing. A wrongful death suit against the county was settled for $862,500

On Tuesday, when Hill mentioned Antony Jones — an inmate with schizophrenia who died Sept. 2 after an altercation with deputies at the jail — the assistant chief of staff for the county executive intervened.

Greta Johnson, an attorney and former prosecutor, cautioned against Barker speaking publicly about the case because Jones’ family had acquired an attorney and the county anticipated a lawsuit.

No charges filed

On Monday, the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office said no charges would be filed against deputies in the Jones case. The decision was rooted in a Stark County sheriff’s investigation of Jones’ death, outsiders brought in to examine what happened.

GateHouse Media Tuesday requested to see everything Stark County prosecutors turned over this week to Summit County officials, a process Johnson said that would take a couple of days.

The group talking about deadly force quickly moved on from Jones specifically to broad issues that impact both inmates and deputies.

Instead of reading about how deputies train, the group next week is scheduled to watch deputies in action. They’re taking a field trip to a deputy training site near the Akron-Fulton Airport, where deputies learn how to react in various scenarios under pressure.

“Training is always good,” Scruggs cautioned the group. “But all of this starts with the human aspect of treating people the way you want to be treated.

Amanda Garrett is a staff writer for the Akron Beacon Journal.

Source: http://www.cantonrep.com/news/20180516/summit-jail-should-focus-on-use-of-force-mental-health-staff-diversity

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