ACLU of Ohio Calls for Thorough Investigation into County Jail After Two Deaths

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
June 27, 2006 12:00 am

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HAMILTON, OH — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today sent a letter to the Department of Justice and Butler County Commissioners urging them to conduct a thorough and extensive investigation into the apparent suicides of two inmates in the Butler County Jail.

“Jails should be operated in a manner such that one death is a rarity, much less two,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso. “Two deaths in the span of one week calls out for a careful and complete investigation and significant corrective action.”

Both deaths, occurring within a week of one another led the ACLU of Ohio to recommend that Butler County officials make immediate and meaningful changes to the operation and practices at the jail.

The first deceased person, Elmer Eli Tucker, 38, was found dead by hanging in his cell on June 17. According to reports, Tucker was jailed for six days on drug charges.

Delbert Osborne Jr., 19, similarly was found hanging in his cell on Thursday, June 22. Osborne was in jail for receiving stolen property, burglary and assault charges. Deputies indicated that neither man was on suicide watch. Both were in their cells alone.

In its letter, the ACLU of Ohio said that proper procedures and supervision are necessary to guarantee that deaths in a jail are uncommon. Two deaths by the same method in one week is extremely rare in a county jail and more than enough cause to investigate the events leading up to the deaths, the environment in the jail, protocol for guards and the level of supervision and care that each inmate receives, said the ACLU.

“The loss of life is the ultimate loss of civil liberties,” Gamso said. “The Butler County Jail has an obligation to ensure the safety of all inmates in their charge. Two deaths in one week is simply unacceptable and illustrates a need for officials to reexamine their policies and make meaningful changes.”

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