The Oklahoma County Jail is getting quite a reputation as a deadly jail, considering how 12 inmates have died at the jail in each of the two previous years. In fact, 2016 saw 15 inmate deaths, but three of those occurred outside the facility.
And Oklahoma has recently earned a reputation as having among the highest mortality rates nationwide, prompting some to say Oklahoma is home to the most dangerous prisons in the United States.
Now, Latimer County seems to be trying to make sure they are in on the action, with the county jail reporting not one, but two deaths in the last week of 2017.
The first reported death occurred on Christmas Eve, when a jailer found inmate Thasha Prindle unresponsive in her cell around 5:00 a.m. Prindle, 21, had been involved in a car accident the day before, and after being treated and released from a local hospital, she was booked into the Latimer County Jail.
A GoFundMe page set up in Prindle's name says that although the young woman was released from the hospital, she continued to complain of abdominal pain.
The woman was pronounced dead at approximately 5:15 a.m., and her cell was secured as a "possible crime scene," according to an AP report. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reports that her death is being considered "suspicious."
Prindle's death was just the first one in the last week at the jail in Wilburton. On Saturday, another inmate died--this one apparently of self-inflicted wounds.
A 45-year-old man was booked into the jail on Friday on complaints of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm after a felony conviction, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Around noon on Saturday, the man reportedly requested shaving supplies and soap. However, a deputy watching video of the man's cell noticed him making "suspicious movements" and went to check on the inmate. He found blood on the man and in the cell and called EMTs for medical assistance.
The man was transported to a local hospital with lacerations to his wrists and neck. He was pronounced dead at the hospital around 2:00 p.m. As of this writing, the man's identity has not been released pending notification of next of kin.
According to the Huffington Post, in the year following Sandra Bland's death by suicide in a Texas jail in 2015, there were 815 jail deaths across the nation. At least a third of the deaths occurred within three days of arrest. Nearly a third of the 815 deaths were by suicide. Another 27 percent were from natural causes or medical emergency.
Our local jail systems must become more proactive in dealing with both mental health and medical conditions of inmates. Many are booked with serious mental health which can be exacerbated by the stress of arrest and possible prosecution. Others suffer from substance abuse issues and medical conditions which require close supervision and treatment.
Two deaths in a week in a small county jail. More than two dozen deaths in two years at one of the state's largest jails. Oklahoma has got to find a solution.