No Charges In North Carolina Jail Deaths

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North Carolina regulators have the authority to inspect local jails at any time when the care of inmates is in question. Charges can be filed against those who fail to provide proper supervision of inmates. For many years, the state Department of Health and Human Services unit tasked with making sure inmates are safe rarely investigated when one died, reports the Raleigh News & Observer in the third of a series on jail deaths. State officials aren’t aware of any criminal charges being filed against a jail employee as a result of a department investigation. The unit began inspecting deaths in 2012 routinely after a change of leadership and the death of the 19-year-old grandson of a prominent Winston-Salem lawyer who went to sleep on a mat on the floor of an overcrowded jail and never awoke.

Ralph Madison Stockton IV’s death from a drug overdose resulted in a $250,000 settlement. He hadn’t been checked in more than an hour when he was found dead. Steven Lewis took responsibility for the jail inspection unit in 2010. Lewis said by the time Stockton died, he had seen several inmate death reports from jails that suggested the supervision requirements hadn’t been followed. He decided his staff should begin investigating deaths that showed the potential for violations. “I’m as human as I hope most people are, and hearing an 18- or 19-year-old died is a bad thing, regardless of how it happened and what happened,” Lewis said. Since then, more than one of every two death investigations has turned up non-compliance in the supervision of inmates. There have been 51 deaths in five years in which jailers failed to monitor inmates properly. That’s one-third of the 151 inmates who died in North Carolina jails during that time.

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