A Montgomery County Jail Justice advisory committee is closer to selecting a consultant to help the county produce a report designed to guide changes at the embattled jail.
The county is taking proposals due Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. for completion of a Montgomery County Jail operations study to find ways to prevent further claims of prisoner mistreatment and lawsuits that have cost the county more than $1 million in legal fees and settlements this year.
And that amount is likely to increase with six other pending lawsuits against the jail, including one involving Robert Richardson, who died May 19, 2012. The lawsuit alleges several jail employees handcuffed and subdued Richardson on his stomach outside a cell door while he was having a medical emergency.
County commissioners are expected on Tuesday to approve a $75,000 settlement with Marsha Pate-Strickland. Video from the jail taken in September 2015 shows an officer grabbing Pate-Strickland, then 60, by her left arm, pulling her, spinning her and taking her down to the floor.
The lawsuit filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court claims a contract nurse at the jail refused to send her to a hospital and that she complained to other jail staff. Pate-Strickland sought medical attention at an area hospital after her release from jail and was diagnosed with a “comminuted right humeral head/neck fracture,” according to the lawsuit.
During the justice committee’s meeting this week , the group continued discussing how jail overcrowding, understaffing and the mental health and drug abuse of inmates might all contribute to worsen jail conditions.
But Rev. David Fox reminded fellow committee members that one overarching issue was responsible for the formation of the group in March: the county’s desire to head off a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation.
“What got us here was civil rights issues; not opioid issues, not mental health issues, not all the rest of the issues,” he said. “What got us here was a person in a chair being pepper sprayed. What got us here was people being accused of killing an inmate. What got us here was all those kinds of things.”
Amber Swink, who was pepper sprayed by a corrections officer while strapped to a restraint chair, was the first of four inmates to settle lawsuits with the county since August.
Montgomery County Jail book-ins number about 26,000 annually. The jail has a capacity of 914 beds, of which approximately 843 are occupied on any given day. A state inspection of the jail in 2016 shows the maximum recommended capacity based on living space and other factors should be no more than 443 inmates.
Joe Spitler, Montgomery County’s criminal justice director, said about a dozen firms attended a mandatory pre-proposal meeting in October. It’s unclear how much the county may be asked to spend on the report until the sealed bids are opened, he said.
“Once the vendor is identified, then the negotiations start with the committee on points – what you want them to look at, what you don’t want them to look at, what you need them to look at, the financial consideration,” he said.
The Justice Committee will select the winning proposal, which then must be reviewed by the county administrator and other county offices to find a funding source before any final contract is voted on by the county commission, likely sometime in January, Spitler said.