Inmate Deaths Prompt Portage County Jail Inspection

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A state inspection at the Portage County Jail in Ravenna is about to get underway.

Over the past 18 months, five inmates have died.

Portage County Sheriff David Doak said three of the deaths are suspected suicides.

One Ohio mother believes her son's death could have been prevented.

During a Skype interview with Fox 8 News Reporter Elisa Amigo, Debbie Veith said her son, Joshua McDaniel of Bryan, Ohio, had diabetes.

Last year, McDaniel, 25, was booked into the Portage County Jail for a misdemeanor drug charge.

"He was a very outgoing kid, he loved life and loved his family," said Veith.

Fox 8 News obtained a memo from the family's attorney, Grant Goodman, written by a nurse at the jail, stating McDaniel must sleep in a lower bunk because he suffers from seizures.

Goodman said the first night McDaniel was in jail, the memo was "misplaced," and despite repeated requests by McDaniel, the commanding officer did not allow him to sleep in the lower bunk.

When asked about the memo, Portage County Sheriff David Doak refused to comment.

Goodman said in the middle of the night, McDaniel had a seizure, rolled out of bed and hit his head on the ground.

Several weeks after undergoing brain surgery, McDaniel died in February of 2011.

"If he'd been properly taken care of, he'd be here today," said Veith.

The Portage County Jail did not report his death to the state until November.

When asked about the number of inmates that have died in recent months, Doak said, "I'm alarmed at the number of incidents and it's a concern to me."

"It shouldn't have been one person, let alone five. There's definitely a problem. They need to go in and investigate, see who's not doing their job," said Veith.

The sheriff said staffing levels were "adequate" and he does not feel their deaths were preventable.

However, some systematic changes are in the works.

"Since these incidents have occurred, we have taken steps in terms of training. We are training officers in crisis intervention," said Doak.

At the request of the jail administrator, the State Department of Corrections will conduct an inspection.

"I think they're going to find we are in compliance with operations here at the facility," said Doak.

"There's no reason why this should happen in the beginning, nobody should have lost their life," said Veith.

McDaniel's family has filed a federal lawsuit for wrongful death and medical malpractice.

The sheriff says he has completed a thorough investigation into each death and staff members have taken preventative measures to make sure this doesn't happen again.

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