Crime

If an inmate dies of an overdose, who is to blame? This lawsuit says jailers are.

A lawsuit filed Thursday blames the staff of the Montgomery County Regional Jail for the death of an inmate who died of an overdose last year.

The suit was filed in Mongtomery Circuit Court by the estate of Ryan Alan Smallwood, 25, who died as a result of a fentanyl overdose in November.

The lawsuit says that Smallwood would still be alive if the jail staff had properly searched an incoming inmate for contraband and had put Smallwood in a single cell or safe cell instead of in a cell with newly-booked inmates.

Smallwood, of Frenchburg, had been held in the jail since April 2017, when he was indicted on a charge of first-degree burglary, according to court records.

The lawsuit says Smallwood had suffered from "mental health problems" and had tried to kill himself during his time at the jail. He had received psychiatric care and took anti-psychotic medicines, and orders in his file called for him to be placed in a single cell or safe cell if he became violent.

On Nov. 21, Smallwood was involved in an altercation with another inmate, but instead of putting him in a single cell or safe cell, the suit says that he was placed in the "detox cell" in the booking area of the jail that serves as a holding cell for new inmates.

Video surveillance footage recorded at about 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 23 shows another inmate, Kloud Jones, who had been booked the night before, "placing a substance into a packet and then immediately giving that packet to Decedent Smallwood, who is seen inhaling the substance," the lawsuit states.

Smallwood "was then observed staggering, taking off his shirt, and falling onto a mat on the floor," it says.

After 17 minutes, a deputy jailer found Smallwood unresponsive, and CPR was performed. He was pronounced dead at 7:55 a.m. at St. Joseph Mount Sterling as a result of acute fentanyl toxicity, according to the lawsuit.

On May 3, Jones was indicted in federal court for allegedly distributing a mixture of a substance containing fentanyl, which killed Smallwood.

The lawsuit says that jail staff cleaned up the detox cell before evidence was collected or an investigation performed.

On the same morning, an inmate anonymously reported there were drugs and a syringe in the wing of the jail where women were held, the suit claims.

And the month after Smallwood's death, deputy jailer Brian Prater, 33, was arrested and accused of selling drugs to jail inmates. He was charged with trafficking methamphetamine and promoting contraband.

The suit accuses Jailer Eric Jones, deputy jailers Elizabeth Willoughby, Paige Clark and Jeremy Power and other unknown deputy jailers of negligence in making sure the jail was free of narcotics and ensuring that new, unsearched inmates were kept separate from the general jail population.

The jailer "acted with oppression, fraud and/or malice in failing to provide the required training, supervision and control" over the deputy jailers, and failed "to provide the proper oversight, care, supervision and protection to Decedent Smallwood," the lawsuit claims.

It was filed on behalf of Jennifer Wright Smallwood, the administrator of Smallwood's estate, and Brianna Nicole Simpson, the mother of Smallwood's two children. It asks for punitive and monetary damages, including damages for the children's loss of the "love, companionship, support, and protection of their father."

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