PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Authorities are investigating the death of a 36-year-old inmate, found unresponsive in his cell at the Multnomah County Detention Center Tuesday evening.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office says it follows a string of deaths in their custody within the span of three months. Since May 2, the county has reported six in-custody deaths.
By comparison, the sheriff’s office says there were zero in-custody deaths for the two full years of 2020 and 2021.
Of the six recorded, the medical examiner says only two deaths have received finished reports: The deaths on May 2 and June 16 were both ruled as suicides, but reports are in process for the deaths reported on May 13, June 22, July 19 and Aug. 1.
The following in-custody deaths occurred within that three-month span:
|Name:||Age:||Date of Death:||Manner of Death|
|Donovan Anthony Wood||26||5/2/2023||Suicide|
|George Allen Walker||31||5/13/2023||Unknown|
|Martin Todd Franklin||58||6/16/2023||Suicide|
|Kashi Abram Harmon||53||6/22/2023||Unknown|
|Josiah G. Pierce||31||7/19/2023||Unknown|
Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell said early indications suggest that some of the deaths could be drug related.
“Like all corrections facilities, our measures are continuously being tested or subverted,” O’Donnell said. “If we receive information that there is contraband entering our facilities, we use all available resources to prevent this from happening, conduct a thorough investigation and prosecute those responsible. “
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, overdose deaths increased by more than 200% between 2001 to 2018 within county jails. The sheriff’s office says they “expect future data to show a continuation of this tragic trend.”
Some people in custody may smuggle drugs by swallowing and hiding drugs in the body, which deputies say significantly reduces the chance of the drug’s detection in jail — even while using body scanning equipment.
“As my team and I continue to engage our local, state and federal partners in discussions for solutions, we are implementing a number of short, mid and long-term strategies,” O’Donnell said. “These strategies are in addition to the medical, mental health and addiction services and resources our corrections health partners already provide.
In part, the sheriff’s office says they have expanded Narcan availability and increased search criteria for contraband. Deputies say they hope to implement technology solutions in the future.
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.