Two deaths in one year has Crow Wing County Jail officials reviewing operations at the detention center.
Most recent, the death of 24-year-old Mathew Hines, who was found hanging in the shower room March 18 by the drawstring of his pants, has raised questions about jail procedure.
Hines was unresponsive when a corrections officer found him. He was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital, but died a day later.
Ross said he has talked to Hines' family and answered many of their questions concerning Hines' death. Ross said he and Crow Wing County Jail Administrator Jerry Negen will be going through the jail policy manual and making necessary changes.
Ruth Hines, Mathew Hines' mother, declined Friday to comment on her son's death, but did say her family has retained a lawyer -- Twin Cities attorney Erik Bergmanis. Calls to Bergmanis' office Friday weren't returned.
Hines was arrested March 18 for violating an order for protection. The initial complaint report indicated that at 10:42 p.m. March 17, the female with the order against Hines called 911 and said Hines was calling her at home and he threatened suicide.
After his arrest, Hines was put in the shower room because the holding cell was full, said Ross.
"I may not use that shower room again" to hold inmates, Ross said, noting it's one of several procedures Ross and Negen will be reviewing. Another change is all inmates will wear jail uniforms when they get into the jail. More cameras may be added to the jail, too, said Ross.
Negen declined to comment on Hines' death or what changes would be considered at the jail, and referred questions to Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan, who declined comment.
Since January 2001 there have been nine deaths in county jails in Minnesota. Two of those have been in Crow Wing County Jail. In total there are 7,174 beds in Minnesota county jails.
On April 15, a 21-year-old Crosby man, David Broderick, was found unresponsive in his holding cell. The coroner determined Broderick died from an overdose of methamphetamine, a large quantity of which he had swallowed as he was arrested by Crosby police.
"Two is very unusual at the same facility, but it all depends on the circumstances. Certainly we'll look at that and see if there may have been any extenuating circumstances, though we don't expect that to be the case," said Ken Merz, director of the administrative services unit for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, which licenses county jails and oversees jail inspections and standards enforcement.
In 2001 there were four suicides in county jails, and one death by other causes. So far in 2002 there have been three suicides and one death by other causes in county jails, a high number for only three months into the year, Merz said.
"Usually there are around four to five deaths in a county facility in a normal year," Merz said.
Merz said when there is a death in a jail, the DOC recommends an outside agency investigate because of the chance that it is a crime. In Hines' case, ruled a suicide, Ross said his own department with help from the Brainerd Police Department would do the investigation.
Three Crow Wing County corrections officers were on duty the night Hines was found unresponsive in the shower room, Ross said. Two were veterans and one was new to the jail.
"But there again, they were trained well enough," said Ross.
Normally, discipline for penalties in a county jail would be given by the sheriff, Merz said. But if there are repeated negligent violations, which are rare, said Merz, the DOC could go to district court and ask a judge to close the facility.
"But in my 20 years I can't think of any time we've done that," said Merz, noting such action is usually reserved for older, unsafe jails.
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