ACLU of Ohio Demands Department of Justice Investigate Deaths at Butler County Jail

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
April 10, 2007 12:00 am

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19-Year-Old’s Suicide is Fourth in Less Than a Year

HAMILTON, OH – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and Butler County Commissioners urging them to launch an immediate and thorough investigation into a string of suicides at the Butler County Jail. On Sunday, Timothy James Hughes, 19, was found dead in his cell after committing suicide, making him the fourth inmate at Butler County Jail to die in similar circumstances in under a year.

“When even one inmate dies while in the care of the state, it is an indicator that they are not properly supervised,” said Carrie Davis, ACLU of Ohio Staff Counsel. “Four inmates dying in such a small timeframe is almost unthinkable. The urgency of this situation warrants the DOJ to take immediate steps to investigate all aspects of procedures, practices and staffing at the jail,” she added. “The DOJ and the county must take direct action before another inmate loses his or her life.”

In addition to the letter to the DOJ and Butler County Commissioners, the ACLU of Ohio is also requesting information from the county regarding the practices and policies of the jail. Such items may include how often guards check prisoners, the ratio of staff to inmates and protocols for guards to ensure the safety of inmates.

In June 2006, the ACLU of Ohio requested records from the Butler County Coroner following the deaths that year of Elmer Eli Tucker, 38, on June 17 and Delbert Osbourne, Jr., 19, on June 22. Both men committed suicide by hanging themselves in their jail cells.

Thomas Raymond Brotherton, 49, was the next inmate found hanging in his cell at 12:15 a.m. on March 31. Less than two weeks later,, news of the fourth inmate, Timothy James Hughes, became public.

“Four people losing their lives while in the government’s care is simply unacceptable,” Davis said. “Butler County officials and the DOJ must take a long, hard look at the conditions within the jail, the amount of care and supervision each inmate receives and the practices and procedures the jail employs to ensure safety for those incarcerated. Something is terribly wrong and must be changed before another person needlessly dies.”

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