WashCo Jail: Third inmate death in two months unprecedented
A third inmate has died at the Washington County Jail in less than two months, mirroring a pattern of increased in-custody deaths that has been reported across the nation.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office said in a statement released Thursday, June 2, that a 51-year-old man died while waiting to complete the booking process.
The man arrived at the jail shortly after 7 a.m. on June 1, according to the jail. "While waiting to complete the booking process, deputies noticed the man was not breathing while seated in the holding area."
According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, deputies attempted life-saving efforts and were assisted by paramedics, who arrived shortly after. The agency is still trying to contact next of kin and has not released the man's identity yet.
The Washington County Major Crimes Team is investigating. The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy on Wednesday, sheriff's office said, but have not yet released a cause of death.
Three inmates have died died at the jail in under two months. The first was Bryce Bybee, 22, on April 17. The second was 35-year-old Crystal Leuenberger, who died less than 24 hours after she was booked at the jail on May 23 on suspicion of violating her parole.
"This is unprecedented for our jail," Sheriff Pat Garrett said in a prepared statement. "As I continue my commitment to transparency and improvement, I will arrange an outside entity to conduct an additional review separate from the (Major Crimes Team) investigation."
The sheriff's office also notes that, as of June 1, NaphCare became the jail health care provider after earning the contract earlier this year. Before that, Correction Health Partners provided medical care at the jail for two years.
National media reports show that this spike in inmate deaths is not just being felt in Washington County.
The Seattle Times reported last month that more people died in custody during the first four months of 2022 than during all of last year, with five dying since December. At least three of them were ruled a suicide and one was an overdose.
In Georgia, a record number of deaths were reported in jails across the state in 2021, according to the University of Georgia's WUGA 91.7 and 94.5 FM radio station. Many of them were ruled a suicide, as well.
The Oregon Medical Examiner's Office said that "For all of these individuals, cause of death is pending further studies."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with details obtained from the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.