Death in the Jail


There’s a disturbing article in News Journal today about Leonard Black, who died Monday in Escambia County Jail. Black was being held on a charge of violating probation and was suffering from lung disease and a staph infection.

On April 16, Circuit Judge Jan Shackelford refused the request of Black’s defense attorney, family and jail officials for his release pending his hearing. The family wanted him home – knowing that he was dying. Jail officials wanted off the hook for Black’s medical bills – which they told the PNJ totaled $336,000.

Arrested Dec 8 for violating his probation on a driving without a license charge – Black’s hearing was scheduled for July 31.

We have an overcrowded jail. We have deputies arresting people for $40 dog grooming bills (Are You Immune To Arrest? ). We have a state attorney’s office that tries everything – which overloads the courts (Black sat in jail for over six months). Add to that a jail infirmary that has a terrible history on how poorly it treats inmates.

People like Leonard Black fall through the cracks. How many more like him are in the jail now? The county commission, sheriff and state attorney need to form a task force to review the system and make recommendations.

In a time where we need to cut county spending, it would be worthwhile to see how much money our “law & order” stance is costing us. How many arrests are frivolous? How cases really need to be prosecuted? Do Sheriff McNesby and State Attorney Bill Eddins get some kind of brownie points for charging everyone and trying every case?

Then we need to ask how many arrested need to sit in jail? How many convicted for lesser crimes need to have jail time – especially in this era of electronic monitoring?