CLEVELAND (AP) — Two lawsuits have been filed in federal court in Columbus regarding a county jail near the southern tip of Ohio where four inmates escaped last year and where families of inmates who have died or been injured have criticized treatment.
The ex-wife of a man who died at the Gallia County Jail in December 2018 said in her lawsuit that corrections officers and sheriff’s deputies ignored her ex-husband’s serious medical condition and refused to let him go to a hospital despite a recommendation from emergency medical technicians two days before he died.
A female corrections officer at the jail in Gallipolis claims in her lawsuit, also filed last month, that Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin and others ignored policies that resulted in her being injured and traumatized when she was assaulted and overpowered by four male inmates who escaped in September 2019.
Corrections officer Debra Smith said in her lawsuit that she and another female corrections officers were the only guards on duty that night. The men were arrested in North Carolina the next day.
Jail policy says female corrections officers should only supervise female inmates, the lawsuit said. The jail housed around 40 inmates at the time, most of whom were men, while capacity at the jail is 11 inmates, the lawsuit said.
After the escapes, Champlin said problems at the jail located in the basement of the county courthouse have existed for years.
Andrew Yosowitz, an attorney who represents Champlin and Gallia County in both lawsuits, emailed a statement Wednesday that said, “While we continue to support Debra Smith” in her recovery, “We disagree, however, that the inmates’ decision to assault Ms. Smith” entitles her to damages.
Smith’s attorney, John Rutan, said Smith has not returned to work since the escapes. He declined to comment about the lawsuit itself.
Amanda Carpenter’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of her and Mark Simms’ daughter. Attorney Eleni Drakatos said the complaint outlines how deputies and corrections officers showed “deliberate indifference” to Simms’ medical condition.
An autopsy showed Simms, 36, died of a heart attack at the jail on Dec. 16. Interviews of jail personnel by state investigators said Simms was placed in isolation after inmates complained about him vomiting throughout the day.
Simms collapsed and fell unconscious as his grandmother waited at the jail to take him to a hospital after posting bail for him.
Emergency medical technicians were called to the jail two days previously when Simms, a longtime methamphetamine user, complained of stomach pains. Simms told corrections officers and EMTS he had previously signed himself out of a Kentucky hospital and needed surgery to repair a stomach aneurysm, according to interviews conducted by agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
EMTs said Simms should be taken to a hospital for an evaluation. A sheriff’s deputy said he should remain at the jail and be monitored A corrections officer signed a form that said Simms had refused to be transported, the BCI investigation found.
The county’s statement regarding Simms said his family is not “entitled to taxpayer money,” citing his previous refusal to be treated in Kentucky. The statement said Simms was monitored at the jail and that he died of “longstanding cardiovascular disease” not apparent to officers or EMTs.
The Associated Press detailed other deaths and inmate injuries at the jail in November.
This story has been corrected to show that the statement from the attorney for Champlin and Gallia County was sent Wednesday, not Thursday.