County jail settlements top $1M
Taxpayers spending too much, Montgomery County official says.
The amount of taxpayer money spent defending and settling a spate of lawsuits against the Montgomery County Jail soared above a million dollars Tuesday when county commissioners approved a $380,000 payout to Emily Evans.
Evans, then 27, was brought to the jail in 2014 on a drunk driving charge. The lawsuit claimed Evans was threatened by a deputy who had a Taser pointed at her and was then slammed to the floor by a sergeant, causing facial fractures.
Evans is the fourth former inmate in the last four months
and the second within two weeks to receive a settlement over alleged mistreatment in the jail. The settlements alone have cost the county $888,000. An additional $444,000 has been spent on outside legal counsel and litigation costs, according to county records. Six lawsuits against the jail are pending.
“We have to end up with significantly fewer lawsuits because taxpayers are paying a lot of money – too much money – to resolve these cases,” said Montgomery County Commission Pres- ident Dan Foley.
Maj. Matt Haines, who commands the jail, said Tuesday there have been no policy changes identi- fied in the wake of the set- tled lawsuits including those brought by Amber Swink, Marsha Pate-Strickland and Darryl Wallace, whose case was settled last week.
“In three of the lawsuits that resulted in a settle- ment employees were held accountable and received discipline for violating policies that were already in force at the time of the incident and our internal investigation into the fourth is still pend- ing due to an open criminal case,” Haines said.
Critical work is underway by the Justice Advisory Committee for the Montgomery County Jail, Foley said. Formed in March, the committee will ultimately provide a report to commissioners that will identify best practices around programming, staffing levels, train- ing, policies and procedures, as well as “bricks and mortar investments” the county needs to make in the facility which saw its last major renovation in 1994.
“We have one jail in this community and we don’t have a backup option,” he said. “So it’s incumbent on us to make sure that the jail is the safest jail it can be for the community.”
Foley said the committee is close to hiring a professional jail consultant to help assemble the report.
Rabbi Bernard Barsky, a co-chairman of the commit- tee, said the group isn’t looking at specific allegations in the suits but instead on the broader underlying issues such as overcrowding, medical and mental health ser- vices, and staffing.
“The situations at the jail are a result of the reality of life in the jail: the fact that it’s overcrowded, the fact the jail staff is overburdened,” he said. “That’ll certainly encompass whatever issues led to those lawsuits.”
In the Evans lawsuit, one corrections officer was disciplined for using the laser aiming system on his Taser inappropriately. The officer who Evans accused of “slam- ming” her to the ground, however, was not found to have violated any policy.
“An independent use of force expert reviewed the Evans case and video and found that no force was used and that Evans propelled herself onto the ground,” Haines said.
Evans’ attorney, L. Michael Bly did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The corrections officer in the Pate-Strickland case was given a letter of caution for failing to notify a super- visor of an escalating situ- ation, resulting in a use of force that “coult have been avoided,” the letter says.
The corrections officer in the Wallace case was disciplined and referred for pos- sible criminal charges, which was denied by county and city prosecutors.
Capt. Judith Sealey, whose pepper-spraying of Swink in a restraint chair led to the Swink suit, is still facing possible prosecution. Montgom- ery County prosecutors say there is insufficient evidence for felony charges. Dayton city prosecutors asked Cincinnati city prosecutors to review the case for possi- ble misdemeanor charges.
Sealey was charged with assault on Nov. 8 in Dayton Municipal Court, her attorney Anthony VanNoy said Tuesday, and pleaded not guilty.