Who is dying behind bars in Ohio jails? (2024)

Every year, dozens of Ohioans die in the custody of local jails. They lose their lives to suicide, drug overdoses, medical neglect, violence, accidents or other causes.

One man choked to death on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another was strangled to death. Two inmates sucker punched a man, rendering him unconscious. In other cases, inmates or jailers provided opioids, which triggered fatal overdoses.

Here is a sample of what is happening behind bars in Ohio jails, based on investigative reports, surveillance video, family interviews and lawsuits.

OCTOBER 2023: Daniel Drake, 65, was strangled to death inside the Jefferson County Jail in eastern Ohio. Another inmate, Ronald Dexter Smith pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the case. Authorities declined to release the investigation report while the case is pending.

AUGUST 2023: Fred Maynard, 60, choked to death on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the same day he was booked into the Cuyahoga County Jail. He was being held on a warrant from Medina County for failing to appear in court.

MARCH 2023: Gierra Marie Perdue, 33, died in March 2023 while incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail on Jackson Pike. Perdue's mother, Patti Wolf only knows snippets of what happened − Perdue was on suicide watch and withdrawing from opioids.

Wolf, of Lancaster, felt relieved when Perdue went to jail. It was, she thought, a place where she’d be safe and away from the street drugs she’d used for years.

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It was a 2021 drug charge and failure to show up for mandatory drug testing that got Perdue in trouble. Authorities issued an arrest warrant. Two years later, during a traffic stop, Perdue got arrested and taken to the Franklin County Jail on Jackson Pike. She died nine days later.

"I just want to know how, why. If she was that sick, why didn't they take her to the hospital? So now her kids won't see their mom again. I won't see my baby again,” Wolf said. “I just want to know what happened.”

OCTOBER 2022: Timothy Tufano, 52, was part of a work crew from the Montgomery County Jail cleaning up trash on the side of I-75 southbound near the Dryden Road exit.

Tufano was hit by the sheriff's van, which had been parked on the shoulder of the highway, when an Aramark truck struck the back of the sheriff's van and propelled it forward. He was one-third of the way through his 90-day sentence.

The coroner's report said the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death an accident.

MARCH 2022: While being held in the Lucas County Jail, Jameisha Taylor refused medical treatment and food, going on a five-day hunger strike in March 2022. Prosecutors accused her of stabbing her two children. Authorities failed to transfer her to a psychiatric hospital on March 24. The next day, a guard found Taylor, 28, in her cell − rigor mortis had already started. The same guard reported checking on Taylor five times in the two hours before she was found. The cause of death: dehydration.

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DECEMBER 2021: Lacee Bowersox, said when her brother, Zachery Marhsall, had trouble breathing at home, he called for an ambulance. Police arrived and took him to jail on an outstanding warrant.

Authorities have a different version: cops showed up to do a family-requested welfare check on Marshall and he only complained about breathing trouble after he was told of the warrant.

Behind bars at the Richland County Jail, Marshall's condition worsened. He alternated between taking antibiotics and refusing them, county records show.

Jailers found him unresponsive on Dec. 18 and sent him to the hospital by ambulance. Two days later, Bowersox said the family decided to take Marshall off life support.

Jailers concluded that Marshall, 35, received adequate medical care. An autopsy determined he died of inflammation in his heart and sepsis.

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Bowersox blames Richland County Jail, its poor medical treatment and a lack of compassion for her brother's death. People who work in jails sign up for dealing with difficult people, she said.

“You can’t play God. When they’re complaining of something, something could be wrong. Just because you’re annoyed by them doesn’t mean their voice should go unheard because they could die. He could’ve had a whole life,” she said.

Database: Ohio Jail Deaths, 2020-2023

NOVEMBER 2021: Dustin Ray, 35, overslept in Franklin County's downtown jail and awoke to find his food tray had been stolen. He yelled at other men about his missing lunch and then sat down at a bench and table. It was his second day in jail.

Another inmate, Varmunyah Dunor, sucker punched Ray in the side of his head and Royalle Mosely landed a punch as well. Ray fell to the floor and Dunor delivered a kick, witnesses told investigators. Guards later found Ray unconscious in his bunk. He never woke up and died five days later. Dunor and Mosely each pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case.

OCTOBER 2021: At 2:45 a.m. Miambo Maombi, 21, was discovered with ties around his legs, wrists and neck and wads of clothing stuffed into his nose and mouth in his cell in the Trumbull County Jail.

It's still not clear what happened to him.

The deputy coroner said in his report that Maombi suffocated, but he found it implausible that Maomi could have bound himself in the way he was found.

The deputy coroner said there would be no hesitation in classifying Maombi's death as a homicide in any other setting, but the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office asserted that the death was self-inflicted because surveillance video shows no one entering or leaving Maombi's cell.

JULY 2021: Jared Stewart entered the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in July 2021 with a pacemaker, an internal defibrillator, a new aortic valve and a long list of required medications. In jail, he fell and hit his head, according to a federal lawsuit filed by his family. Stewart, who had to be taken by medical helicopter, died on the last day of what would've been his six-month sentence.

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In the lawsuit, his family alleges that the jail, which serves five counties, failed to give Stewart his medications and properly monitor his condition.

He leaves behind a wife and two school-aged children.

The multi-county jail didn't report Stewart's death to the state. Jail administrators had him released from custody when his condition looked dire, according to attorney Wes Merillat, who represents the Stewart family.

FEBRUARY 2021: Chavis Martinez arrived at Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio on Feb. 4, 2021 with high blood sugar. The 28-year-old told jailers that he relied on insulin to control his Type 1 diabetes. Over a week, he wasn’t regularly checked and only got insulin once. In the early morning hours of Feb. 11, Martinez was shaking from tremors. His teeth clenched and his eyes rolled back. An ambulance crew took the unconscious young man to the hospital. Martinez never woke up.

His family filed a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit in federal court. But the legal team dropped the case after Martinez' family lost contact with the law firm.

OCTOBER 2020: Barbara Sisson said her son, David Miller, used a wheelchair after doctors amputated his leg in 2020 because of blood clots. But Gallia County Jail wasn’t wheelchair accessible. While serving a 10-day sentence for drunk driving, Miller used a portable commode jailers brought to his cell. And paramedics visited daily to change the dressing on Miller's stump, she said.

Sisson questions why he couldn’t serve the sentence at home with an ankle monitor. At least then she could’ve kept an eye on him, she said.

Instead, she said, Miller ended up being rushed to the emergency room. A coroner’s report found bruises and scrapes on his body but no evidence of bleeding or infection.The cause of death was a blood clot in his lung.

Sisson said the jail staff waited too long to get him help. “Why didn’t they take him to the hospital, instead of letting him die in there?”

JUNE 2020: Ryan Elizabeth Trowbridge, 35, landed in jail in Lake County on a theft charge. At booking, she told jailers that she took naloxone to stave off opioid withdrawal symptoms as well as anti-depressants. She needed her medications. She didn’t get them. Trowbridge didn’t see a doctor or nurse, despite multiple requests, according to a lawsuit against the county jail. Five days after she was booked into the jail, Trowbridge hung herself. She died two weeks later.

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Her mother, Stacey Berrier, is suing Lake County in federal court. It is the second federal lawsuit against Lake County jailers and medical staff.

MAY 2020: Kevin Bailey, 56, fought with guards inside the Scioto County Jail in May 2020, hitting his head on a doorway. Medics airlifted him to a hospital in Columbus where he died a few days later. The Ohio Attorney General's office investigated the death and prosecuted a former guard, Billy Thompson. Two years later, a Scioto County jury acquitted Thompson of murder charges.

FEBRUARY 2020:Scott Coldren started serving a 30-day sentence for a misdemeanor drug charge in Ross County in February 2020. Coldren told his probation officer that he’d kill himself if he was incarcerated. He told sheriff’s deputies the same thing as they took him to jail. Coldren repeated the threat to jailers. Within 24 hours, the 20-year-old hanged himself. Ross County settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the Coldren family for an undisclosed amount, according to local media reports.

SEPTEMBER 2019: The Richland County Sheriff's Office paid $4 million to settle a wrongful death case brought by the family of Alexander Rios. Surveillance video shows Rios darting out of a cell and down a hallway before five guards brought him to the floor. They pinned him down, stepping and kneeling on his back and pressing his head onto the floor as they tried to handcuff him. Officers tasered Rios, 29, as they worked to subdue him.

Rios could be heard gasping on the surveillance video. Roughly two minutes later, he became unresponsive and turned blue.

Rios was taken to OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital where, on Sept. 27, 2019,he was taken off a ventilator and died.

A trial against a former corrections officer, Mark Cooper, ended in a hung jury. A second trial began in April. Cooper is charged with involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

Who is dying behind bars in Ohio jails? (2024)


What is the greatest cause of death among jail inmates? ›

Number of local U.S. inmate fatalities in jail 2019, by cause of death. Suicide was the leading cause of death for local jail inmates in the United States in 2019, accounting for 355 deaths in that year. Heart disease killed a further 294 inmates in that same year, making it the second leading cause of death.

How many prisons does Ohio have? ›

As of December 31, 2020, the number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of Ohio correctional authorities was 45,036 located in 28 state prisons and held in custody of private prisons or local jails.

What percent of criminals are incarcerated for violent crimes? ›

In 2022, more than three in five people (63%) sentenced to state prison had been convicted of a violent crime,18 as compared with 1970 when 30% of people in prison had been convicted of violence.

How many state prisons are in the US? ›

Together, these systems hold over 1.9 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 98 federal prisons, 3,116 local jails, 1,323 juvenile correctional facilities, 142 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and ...

What is the average lifespan of a prisoner? ›

The average age of incarceration is 25. The average prisoner dies behind bars at age 64. Thus, the average time served by people serving LWOPs is thus 39 years. Inmates older than 55 have an average of three chronic conditions and as many as 20% have a mental illness.

What state has the most death inmates? ›

Texas leads the nation in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. California, Florida, Texas, and Alabama have the largest death row populations. As of October 1, 2020, 2,557 inmates were under sentence of death in the United States.

What ethnicity has the highest incarceration rate? ›

Every state incarcerates Black residents in its state prisons at a higher rate than white residents. For comparisons to other race/ethnicity categories, see individual state profile pages. Jails play an outsize role in the mass incarceration of women, which has serious consequences for their health and their families.

What crimes do most prisoners commit? ›

Most Common Type of Crime
Crime TypeNumber of Individuals
Drug Trafficking65,096 65,096 65,096
Firearms20,701 20,701 20,701
Sexual Abuse9,396 9,396 9,396
Robbery9,255 9,255 9,255
7 more rows

What are the top 5 races that are incarcerated? ›

Race# of Inmates% of Inmates
Native American4,4092.8%
7 days ago

What state has the safest prisons? ›

The two Best States for corrections are New Hampshire and Maine , which both also rank in the top three for safety. New Hampshire also ranks in the top 10 overall, as do Massachusetts and Utah , the fourth and fifth Best States for corrections, respectively.

Which US state has the most jails? ›

Texas is home to the greatest number of prisons and jails in the USA. With 313 prisons it has 110% more places of incarceration than colleges.

What is the leading cause of death after incarceration? ›

Research has confirmed that overdose is the leading cause of death among people recently released from prisons, as well as the third leading cause of deaths in custody in U.S. jails. See Ingrid A. Binswanger, Patrick J. Blatchford, Shane R.

What is the most common health problem of inmates in jail? ›

People in prisons and jails are disproportionately likely to have chronic health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and HIV, as well as substance use and mental health problems.

What do death row inmates have in common? ›

Frequently death row inmates are intellectually limited and academically deficient. Histories of significant neurological insult are common, as are developmental histories of trauma, family disruption, and substance abuse.

Which of the following is the most frequent cause of prisoner death and custody? ›

Our review of records provided by the BOP identified a total of 344 inmate deaths at BOP institutions from FYs 2014 through 2021 that fell into one of four categories: (1) suicide, (2) homicide, (3) accident, and (4) those resulting from unknown factors. The majority of these deaths were due to suicide or homicide.

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