Jail deaths should be probed by outsiders

Two inmates in less than a month have allegedly strangled themselves in the Ottawa County Jail.
Sep 27, 2013

Both were revived by jail staff, but later died of injuries from their supposed suicide attempts.

Both of these men are from our Tri-Cities area, and the families are left grieving lives lost.

It is a sad situation, and certainly disturbing that this would happen twice in such a short time span.

When asked when the last time something like this happened at the jail, an official there sidestepped the question and said one time was too many.

Clearly.

But what remains unclear is why and how. Sheriff's office investigators are now probing both deaths, having not yet finished their first death investigation.

One has to wonder what might be found — and, at the least, we would hope that jail screening and supervision procedures might be re-evaluated. Perhaps the staff at the jail did everything right. But perhaps not.

We also wonder whether we, the people, will ever really know. The sheriff seems to parcel out the information he likes, when he likes, how he likes.

Most Freedom of Information Act requests are denied outright by this department, so little information makes it past the sheriff's gates to see the light of day.

Which is all the more reason to question whether it is appropriate for the Sheriff's Department to investigate its own jail.

Why not ask for an independent investigation of these deaths? Such an outside probe might lend credibility to the jail staff's actions if they did indeed do everything right.

It might also better identify areas that may need strengthening.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

SLNativeSince1864

Maybe the Tribune should investigate, but that requires investagative journalism...nevermind.

pike84

It seems like a lot of people recently are having trouble with this Sheriff when wanting information. Perhaps we shouldn't spend our money with the sheriff department. They don't do this for free you know, we hire a sheriff just like in the old days. If we don't hire them maybe we won't have these problems. We have a local police force, State Police and a Sheriff with deputies...how many do we need???

Barry Soetoro

Two convicts that no longer require taxpayers to furnish their room and board? Pass me the tissues.

LessThanAmused

C'mon Tribune folks...there's gotta be a better word than "Probed" for the title of this article, right?

ggravish

Wouldn't be the first time a dude was probed in prison, I'm guessing.

polarize

I don't think you are being fair with the Sherriff and suspect your comments are biased because he denied your attempt to force the release earlier this year of potentially harmful information about calls that didn't have anything to do with actual convictions.

I have known the Sherriff for over 25 years and even worked with him in interagency incidents and will tell you that he has always been a man of complete integrity just as his father was decades ago as a deputy in Ottawa County.

This public attempt to force the hand of the Sherriffs office who has a responsibility to protect all county citizens is inappropriate. His track record speaks for itself and even with some disagreement with his statements I think we have one of the best in leadership here without question.

If there is a problem at the jail you can rest assure that Ottawa County Sherriffs Department would be the first to correct the situation. There is no interest in the Sherriffs department for an unsafe environment to exist at the jail. Whatever reason that one would go to the Ottawa County Jail remember that most of these citizens are your neighbors and it could happen to you or your loved ones. Jail time doesn't necessarily define the person and it could be the stress of being in jail may have been more than enough than these two men could handle. All life is valuable and one's current status shouldn't cheapen it.

Perhaps the Tribune should concentrate on whether the jail is offering enough appropriate rehabilitation opportunities to help prepare those who want to make a change for better after the shocking wake up call from being in jail. AA, 12 Step, and Chaplain services are available and my hope is that, in the course of their investigation, staff could be trained to better detect harmful issues that could turn into an inmate harming themselves or others and intervene before its too late.

zwesterhouse

Were just out of money. Broke. Nothing anybody can do

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