The police commander who took over the St. Louis County jail’s management in April is finding that his ability to review problems and make changes is limited in the wake of multiple inmate deaths.
Lt. Col. Troy Doyle, the interim director of justice services, doesn’t oversee the jail’s medical staff and gained access only in recent weeks to critical meetings where medical issues about inmate deaths are discussed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Doyle promised when taking over April 22 to evaluate the jail and make improvements after three deaths since the start of the year. He said he would be transparent about what he found. But his tenure has included a fourth death, and county officials have refused to let the public see records from death investigations.
While Doyle tweeted that he is working on a “90-day report” on his progress at the jail, he told the Post-Dispatch he was not authorized to talk to a reporter.
“If Doyle cannot weigh in on the hiring and firing of nurses or the provisions of health care in the jail, then he doesn’t run the jail,” said Mark Pedroli, an attorney representing the mother of Lamar Catchings, who died March 1 from leukemia.
Police found that a nurse had accused the 20-year-old Catchings of faking symptoms four days before he died.
In the death of Larry “Jay” Reavis, 51, on Jan. 18, an inmate working in the infirmary told police that a guard shrugged off notice that Reavis said he couldn’t get up because he was having a seizure.
And John M. Shy, 29, bled to death from an intestinal hemorrhage on Feb. 23. The Clayton Police found two nurses saw him lying in blood at least 15 minutes before anyone entered his cell.
Daniel Stout, 31, died on June 11 from peritonitis caused by an ulcer that perforated his intestine, an autopsy found.
County officials have claimed that records of death investigations are confidential personnel or health records, or that they concern secure systems. The county justice services and health departments have refused to release any account of failures that led to the deaths.
“I want to get this stuff out,” County Executive Sam Page said. “I’ve got two career attorneys telling me — one’s in tears and the other one’s very angry — that you can’t just release all this stuff that will be impossible for us to defend any sort of litigation.”
The justice services department includes jailers and supervisors, while public health includes nurses and doctors. The agencies have for several years operated independently within the jail and when an inmate died, they would conduct parallel investigations.
Page said he will ask a new advisory board to consider whether the jail’s management should be changed so that the jail is operated by a single director.
A spokesman for Page said that at Doyle’s request, Doyle has been allowed to attend the health department’s “morbidity/mortality review” meetings where the deaths have been reviewed.