A Memphis Jail Has Become More Deadly Than Rikers Island | EUROtoday

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Deion Byrd would have turned 26 years outdated on Jan. 31. His father, Marcus Byrd, instructed HuffPost that Deion often spent his birthdays along with his household, watching tv and consuming a few of his mom’s cooking at their dwelling in Memphis, Tennessee.

“He liked joking and things like that,” Marcus stated. “He wanted to rap and made a few mixtapes. He had dreams of doing things he could enjoy.”

Last 12 months, Deion Byrd was concerned in a automotive crash that led to a person’s dying. Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy alleged that Byrd and one other man had been evading police in a getaway car linked to organized robberies at native liquor shops. Byrd was within the passenger seat.

Byrd was indicted on costs of theft, housebreaking, vehicular murder and first-degree homicide and was despatched to the Shelby County jail on June 24.

On Oct. 26, he was set to look earlier than a choose for an arraignment and was in a holding cell within the Shelby County courthouse with one other inmate, Donnie Clay, 21. Byrd and Clay started arguing after Byrd accused Clay of breaking into his dwelling.

Clay allegedly stabbed Byrd within the neck with a shank. Byrd died at a close-by hospital. “How could we not be able to protect another inmate from being killed?” Shelby County Judge Paula Skahan stated after the incident. “That’s our job, to make sure everyone is safe in our system, and we couldn’t do it.”

His household additionally had questions. “Deion was already in a place that was already crumbling,” Marcus Byrd instructed HuffPost. “There is no structure there, and they don’t have enough people to watch everybody.”

Byrd’s household filed a wrongful dying lawsuit final month — the third filed in opposition to the jail prior to now 12 months, all of them ongoing. The Byrd household’s go well with alleged that poor staffing and neglect led to the deaths of prisoners within the facility.

In current years, the Shelby County jail has grown extra lethal than the notoriously harmful Rikers Island jail complicated in New York.

While Rikers had 16 deaths between January and December 2021, the Shelby County jail had 10 deaths. In 2022, the Shelby County jail deaths elevated to 14 for the 12 months whereas Rikers Island had 17, regardless of having two and a half occasions the inhabitants.

The Shelby County sheriff’s division declined to touch upon the jail’s dying price, on allegations from inmates’ members of the family, or on the continuing lawsuits.

A Long History Of Problems

The U.S. Department of Justice started investigating the Shelby County jail in 2000 attributable to a number of allegations of extreme violence and insufficient prisoner supervision. The findings confirmed situations within the jail had been violating the constitutional rights of prisoners, and that the ability didn’t have ample supervision of prisoners, resulting in repeated incidents of inmate-on-inmate violence.

In May 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed a federal class motion lawsuit in opposition to the jail demanding the discharge of inmates who had been susceptible to getting COVID-19. The lawsuit stated the jail violated constitutional rights and didn’t meet minimal statutory necessities. An settlement was reached in 2021 that the jail would implement adjustments to enhance situations and management the unfold of the virus higher.

A complete of 52 inmates have died within the jail since 2016.

Shelby County court docket information observe 31 violations amongst county correctional officers from June 2018 to September 2021. The disciplinary actions vary from oral and written reprimands to suspensions and firings.

A poster showing an image of Gershun Freeman is seen during a news conference on Sept. 25, 2023, in Memphis, Tennessee. Freeman, 33, died in October 2022 after he was beaten in a Memphis jail. Nine jail deputies have been charged in the beating.
A poster displaying a picture of Gershun Freeman is seen throughout a information convention on Sept. 25, 2023, in Memphis, Tennessee. Freeman, 33, died in October 2022 after he was overwhelmed in a Memphis jail. Nine jail deputies have been charged within the beating.

Adrian Sainz by way of Associated Press

In one incident, a correctional officer pepper-sprayed a prisoner whereas enclosed within the cell with them. Another officer was caught on surveillance footage pushing an inmate down a set of steps. Elsewhere, an officer was seen on digicam punching an inmate a number of occasions and spraying him with a chemical agent. In the latter two incidents, officers had been discovered to be within the mistaken however solely acquired oral reprimands, in response to Shelby County sheriff’s division information.

Only one officer, Frederick McCloudwas fired for his or her actions. McCloud was indicted on felony misconduct and aggravated assault costs on Nov. 13, 2019, after he assaulted a prisoner who was handcuffed, inflicting vital head accidents.

A String Of Deaths

Marcus Donald’s household filed a $75 million lawsuit in November in opposition to Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, claiming that his employees did nothing to guard Donald after a number of dying threats from different prisoners.

Donald, 38, was strangled to dying by a cellmate on Nov. 17, 2022. He was the thirty fifth individual to die in Shelby County custody since 2019, and the 14th individual to die in 2022 alone, in response to the go well with.

Donald’s cellmate, Stephen Robinson, pleaded responsible to homicide in November of final 12 months.

Gershun Freeman, 33, additionally died whereas in custody on the jail in 2022. Freeman’s household stated he had psychological well being points and was experiencing an episode when he allegedly lunged at officers from his cell.

In video of the deadly encounter, a number of deputies will be seen spraying and punching Freeman, who was Black. Nine deputies had been indicted in Freeman’s dying; two of the deputies had been charged with homicide.

“We want justice at the end of the day. A life was taken,” his spouse, Nicole Freeman, instructed HuffPost. “We are thinking of the families that would have to deal with these issues in the future.”

And earlier this 12 months, Ramon McGhee, a Black man, died within the jail whereas awaiting trial. Correctional officers discovered McGhee, 42, unresponsive on Jan. 12, lined in lice and bedbugs. His dying prompted an investigation from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. An official post-mortem has not been launched to find out McGhee’s method of dying, and an investigation is ongoing.

Bonner, who oversees the jail and has been cited in prior wrongful dying lawsuits in reference to the ability, stated officers did not deal with McGhee’s situation whereas he was being held there.

“Unfortunately, directions concerning his cell cleaning and personal hygiene were disregarded, and crucial information was withheld,” Bonner stated in a press release launched this month. “Those within the Sheriff’s Office who neglected their responsibilities regarding this tragic incident are not reflective of our values.”

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner walks away after a news conference about the indictments of nine jail deputies in connection with an inmate's fatal beating, Sept. 20, 2023, in Memphis.
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner walks away after a information convention in regards to the indictments of 9 jail deputies in reference to an inmate’s deadly beating, Sept. 20, 2023, in Memphis.

Adrian Sainz by way of Associated Press

McGhee’s attorneys performed an impartial post-mortem and launched findings to the general public Friday, figuring out that he died because of extreme malnutrition, hunger, dehydration and intensive insect infestation.

“It is not just that the guards in there can act barbaric,” stated Brice Timmons, who’s representing Freeman’s household. “It is that when they have people in there that are really vulnerable, there is little to no screening and treatment for that.”

Defiant Leadership

After Byrd’s dying, Bonner acknowledged the officers’ failures and started knowledgeable requirements investigation. “Until we get our staffing levels up, we’re trying to make do with what we have,” Bonner instructed Fox13a Memphis tv affiliate, saying that after Byrd’s case, the division went via its insurance policies.

Bonner instructed the information station Byrd’s case remains to be underneath investigation.

But Bonner has remained defiant within the face of the indictments regarding Freeman’s dying. He was operating for Memphis mayor on the time, and claimed it was a political assault in opposition to him.

“I stand with these officers and I believe if I were not running for another office, then these indictments never would have happened. I find this despicable,” Bonner stated at a press convention. He additionally stated he would begin or donate to a fundraiser for every of the deputies criminally charged. (He finally misplaced his bid for mayor.)

“It was really devastating to know and actually hear the comments he made,” Nicole Freeman stated. “He displayed no remorse and no empathy toward not just the family, but the whole situation itself.”