Underhill: Zero is the only acceptable standard on jail deaths

December 3, 2015

On News Talk 1370 WCOA’s “Pensacola Speaks,” Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill was interviewed about the six deaths in the county jail over the past 13 months.

“We haven’t heard a good news story out of our jail since the day the county took it over,” said Underhill. “Quite frankly, we are desperately in need of a new course of action because the course of action we’ve been on since April (2014), just is not working.”

The commissioner pointed that nationally we have talked mental seriously. The problem has been pushed onto the criminal justice system.

“We got exactly what you’re going to expect when you decide to simply ignore a problem,” he said. “The Escambia County jail is, and for a long time has been, a microcosm of all of these national problems. We just don’t have anything that we can really hang our hat on as something we’re doing right with regard to the jail.”

However, Underhill doesn’t find fault with the jail staff.

“We’ve got some great staff and great people; dedicate Americans working in that jail. The reality is no matter how dedicated you are, if the plan is broken or non-existent or flawed, there’s no way to make it successful,” he said.

“We have to stop worrying about who made what decision in the past to get it fixed,” said Underhill. “We all have to say as county, ‘We need help, we need the best that we have available to work together, to come up with a solution.’”

He wants the county to set a standard that no more inmates will die in the jail.

“We have to say it, we have to name it and claim it, and then we have to do everything we can to make that a reality,” he said. “Zero is the only acceptable standard.”

He knows that the jail population isn’t the healthiest, but that is not an cause.

“That doesn’t change the standard, the standard needs to be zero deaths in jail,” said Underhill. “Now if somebody who is incarcerated has medical issues and we move them into a hospital situation and they die in a hospital where the best available care was available to them.”

He added, “That may happen but the standard needs to be that our incarcerated citizens will not die in our jail.”

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