The New Orleans Advocate: Brother of dead inmate questions staffing levels at New Orleans’ new jail
Jim Mustian of The New Orleans Advocate reports that the brother of a bipolar man who hanged himself at the Orleans Justice Center over the weekend expressed outrage Wednesday (March 16) at the lack of supervision inside the city’s new jail.
Wesley Tumblin said his older brother, Cleveland Tumblin, “slipped through the hands of security” despite the design of the new $150 million lockup, which is supposed to provide “direct supervision” of inmates (Advocate).
“I was under the impression that he was in the new jail,” Tumblin said. “This is a jail system that’s supposed to be built so they can see anything. Where is the security at? Are [the deputies] even in there as they say they are, or are they outside?”
Cleveland Tumblin was a 63 year old boxing instructor who lived in Carollton. He hanged himself in a shower at the lockup Saturday (March 12) and died two days later at University Medical Center. Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the Orleans Parish Coroner, said the results of the autopsy were “consistent with a self-inflicted hanging” (Advocate).
The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office issued a statement that a deputy found Tumblin during a security check, attempting to harm himself with IPSO-issued clothing. The report states that Tumblin gave no warning signs that he was considering harming himself, so he was not considered a risk. Tumblin, according to the report, was assigned to general housing “based on his booking interview and a medical and mental health evaluation that is a standard part of the booking process” (Advocate).
Wesley Tumblin says that his brother Cleveland possibly hung himself because he did not want to serve the several years of prison time he would likely receive after he was arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm, illegal use of a weapon, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Wesley Tumblin said his brother had been on medication to treat his bipolar disorder for years, and received it at the jail before he committed suicide (Advocate).
The suicide has raised new concerns about staffing issues at the Orleans Justice Center, which has seen high employee turnover, and recently made plans to house hundreds of local pre-trial inmates in northeastern Louisiana due to a lack of manpower. Tumblin’s death “is very painful evidence that progress has not been made,” said Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney with the MacArthur Justice Center (Advocate).
“Even in a brand-new jail building, the [Sheriff’s Office’s] failures to prioritize staffing directly on housing tiers means that people at the jail are as unsafe as they ever were,” said Schwartzmann. “We are concerned that the lack of staffing contributed to his death” (Advocate).
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