A brutal death in NC prison leads to a six-digit settlement. What was wrong?

Cleveland County officials have agreed to pay $ 347,500 to the family of a prisoner who was beaten and suffocated in a cell that was not visible to prison officers two years ago.

Jeffrey Todd Dan, 37, died on April 1, 2019, after confronting another prisoner in his cell. The man, Kenneth Eric Derby, has been charged with Dan’s murder.

State Department of Health and Human Services Survey found The guard checked Dan and Derby (41) only once every two hours before Dan was found dead. State regulations require prisoners to check prisoners at least twice an hour.

Dan’s mother Proceedings In February, guards knew that both men were violent and unstable, but accused them of ignoring them after being placed in a windowed cell. Defendants included Cleveland County, Sheriff Alan Norman, and several incumbent and former employees who worked when Dan died.

In February, prison safety expert Jeffrey Schwartz told The News & Observer that prison officers would “establish and leave a gladiator school” if the proceedings were true. He said he was suggesting.

Cleveland County Manager Brian Epley and Deputy County Attorney Martha Thompson confirm the settlement and the amount to be paid.. Norman, incumbents and ex-employees do not have to accept responsibility, they said.

“First and foremost, the whole situation is incredibly unfortunate,” Epley said. “I don’t want to be in a situation where we’re talking about the person who lost his life. That’s obviously what happened.”

I couldn’t contact Norman by email or phone. Charlotte’s lawyer, Luke Larges, who represents Dan’s mother, Freida Winters, said she agreed not to talk about the case as part of the settlement.

Epley and Thompson said they would not announce a settlement agreement until it was recorded in the minutes of the next county committee on October 19. They said the committee approved it in a private session a few weeks ago.

Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government coalition at Elon University, said minutes approval is not required to announce a proceeding settlement, which is a public record under state law.

“If there is a signed and enforced settlement agreement, it is a public record and must be created,” he said.

The settlement is second in less than three years, when Cleveland County paid more than $ 300,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging the death of a prisoner. In 2019, the county paid $ 303,000 to the family of Archie McNeilly Jr., 40, who died of kidney failure in 2015.

A state DHHS investigation into his death was discovered at some point he had Unchecked More than 2 hours by prison staff. Larges also represented his family.

Susan Politt, a senior lawyer for disability rights in North Carolina, said the amount paid by the county should cause more corrective action in prisons. Nonprofits support people with mental and physical disabilities. Prisons often have a significant number of prisoners suffering from mental illness.

“We would hope they have the foresight to spend some resources to make prisons safer,” she said.

In response to state investigators, the Norman Sheriff’s Office said prisons had introduced a new system for tracking checks of detainee prisoners.

Dan died in 2019 from 46 prisoners in North Carolina who became ill in prisons and hospitals and were injured behind a bar. This has been a record number since the state began tracking these deaths in the 1990s.

The number of these deaths was even higher last year, At least 49 prison inmates have been recorded dead.

The death toll of prison inmates has been on the rise in recent years. State legislators have held hearings on rising tariffs, but have not gone through significant reforms. Speaker of the House Tim Moore, who also serves as a lawyer in Cleveland County, has not answered a reporter’s email question about Dan’s death.

Prison deaths often lead to proceedings, resulting in settlements being paid to the prisoner’s family. These agreements may include changes required for prison management. That was the case in 2017 after a 17-year-old boy hung himself in a prison in Durham County.

That reconciliationPaid $ 650,000 to his family, and the prison had to remove the risk of suicide by the end of 2019 and suspend the detention of adults under the age of 18.