NEW PHILADELPHIA (Tusco TV) - Tuscarawas County's sheriff says his office is conducting an internal review after an inmate on suicide watch died from what appeared to be self-inflicted injuries.
Orvis Campbell says the 29-year-old former New Philadelphia man was discovered unresponsive Thursday afternoon after apparently using the short, steel cord attached to the correctional-grade telephone inside his cell to cut off his own circulation. He was resuscitated and transported to Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital where he later died from his injuries. Campbell says they're now working to determine how long he was unconscious and whether staff followed the appropriate protocol.
"At this point, we’ve met with the family a couple of times and they’re of course grieving, and we will have this case reviewed by both the prosecutor and reviewed for internal regulations and policy violations if there are any, and we’ll deal with both those," he says.
Campbell says the inmates in the unit are under constant supervision but it wasn’t immediately apparent that the man was doing anything other than making a phone call.
"We can’t put cameras in their cells. Their cells actually double as restrooms but this cell was mostly glass in the front. Not entirely. Part of the view was blocked. The corrections officer would have seen earlier that he was using the phone and it probably just appeared like he crouched down so we’ll try to get to the bottom of all of that," he says.
Campbell says the phones have since been removed from the booking cells that have been used to house at-risk inmates since the early 90s.
"Part of the reason for wanting the phone in there is if you’re dealing with people who are depressed, sometimes their outreach to the family is something that can be helpful to them so you like them to be able to have those conversations with the family and that was part of it. We’re now looking to see if there are other types of phones we can get so we can still give them that benefit," he says.
Campbell says the coroner’s office has ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause and manner of death. Once the investigation is completed, he says a full report will also be sent to the state agency that oversees adult detention facilities.