SEATTLE — It may have taken prison officers more than 37 hours to discover a Washington state inmate was dead in his cell, despite routine checks, according to records.
An incident summary obtained by The Associated Press under public records laws found no evidence that Jerry Levain Jamison had moved around his cell at Monroe Correctional Complex after he returned from the prison chapel on the night of Sept. 19 and turned off his television.
The next day, an officer placed mail on Jamison’s legs and staff members reported conducting regular inmate counts.
However, it wasn’t until the middle of the day on Sept. 21 that officials determined that Jamison was dead, his body cold and rigid. He died from a heart condition.
Robert Herzog, superintendent of the correctional facility, said Monday it appeared that a unique combination of circumstances had led to Jamison being in the cell for so long.
Officers who conducted checks assumed Jamison was sleeping and didn’t seem to be in any medical distress, Herzog said. Jamison was in a single-occupant cell and wasn’t required to be anywhere during the time before his death was discovered.
Officials will investigate to determine if corrections staff members committed any misconduct. However, Herzog said he doesn’t currently have any issues with how the agency handled Jamison’s case.
“I don’t have any significant concerns at this point in time,” Herzog said.
Under the rules of the corrections department, officers are expected to conduct daily cell inspections, which would have required staff to interact with Jamison. The internal review of Jamison’s death found no documentation that such cell inspections were completed during the week he died.
The incident review also identified a few times in which officers reported an hourly tier check — when the area is walked in search of unusual activity — had been completed, but video documentation didn’t confirm the checks had occurred.
Policies say corrections staffers are also supposed to be sure they are counting “living, breathing flesh” when they conduct counts. The review says that likely did not occur.
The review provides several recommendations, including that the department consider doing a “standing count” as part of its procedure. It also asks the prison superintendent to conduct a thorough review of times when tier checks were documented but unsupported by video.
Staffers said it was standard procedure to place inmate mail through the cell bars when offenders are not present or sleeping.
Herzog said the complex has made one change in response to the review of Jamison’s death. Instead of using flashlights to conduct an overnight count, officials now plan to return to turning on established lights.