After multiple instances of correction deputies failing to properly complete security checks at the Charlotte County Jail, command staff at the Sheriff’s Office recently revised their policy related to security checks and head counts.
The agency became aware of a problem during an investigation into the death of inmate David Griggs on Sept. 26. Griggs died by suicide, found unresponsive with a piece of material tied around his neck in a lockdown pod.
The death investigation was completed by Major Crimes and sent to Internal Affairs for review.
IA Investigator Jason Zakowich “observed policy and procedure concerns separate from and unrelated to the death of Inmate Griggs,” according to his investigation.
The report states Corrections Deputy Timothy Farley and Corrections Deputy First Class Mark DeHart were the two deputies in the H Pod that day, and the documented head count times were “inconsistent with observations on the video surveillance.”
The jail’s policy indicates one of the formal inmate lockdown counts will occur at 4 p.m., and deputies will see the “flesh” of all inmates and check all cell door handles. They are to conduct 30 minute checks on all maximum segregation inmates and one hour checks on all other inmates in H Pod.
The shift log for that day indicated the 4 p.m. count occurred between 3:45 and 4:09 p.m., “but the video surveillance showed Farley and DeHart entering H237 at 3:19 p.m. and exiting at 3:22 p.m. The two did not go upstairs, check for “flesh” of all inmates, or check all cell door handles. The next time a deputy entered H237 was at 4:37 p.m. when Farley moved the phone from downstairs to upstairs and removed an inmate from one cell. At 5:07 p.m., both deputies return to serve food and water, discovering Griggs unresponsive at 5:11 p.m.
Farley admitted on Sept. 26, no proper security checks or head counts were conducted. Neither he nor DeHart physically checked each inmate or door handle any of the times they were in H237. Farley stated he “normally completes a more thorough check but did not on this date,” according to the report.
He reportedly could not say how many times in the past he did not properly complete security or head count checks and “attributed the lack of proper checks to laziness that day.”
On Nov. 20, Investigator Zakowich was notified of additional security check and head count concerns involving nine corrections deputies in the jail’s medical wing. After speaking with command staff, he determined the best course of action was to close the investigation, re-evaluate the current policy and procedures, provide further clarification on them, and conduct remedial training to all certified jail members.
Although Farly and DeHart were determined to have violated official procedures or directives, the case was closed and designated as an “exonerated policy failure.”
CCSO declined to discuss the policy change further.
“The IA simply noted in their review that there was some vague areas within the policy regarding checks and there was simply some clarification language added to aid staff,” Spokesperson Katie Heck said in an email. “We don’t have any further information or commentary on the topic, beyond what was documented in the IA.”