The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office has released the following statement, attributed to medical director Dr. Samuel Gore, regarding the Feb. 7 death of Orleans Parish Prison inmate Ricky Russell:
“The investigation into the death of inmate Russell is ongoing. As a result, we will not discuss the cause of death until this review is complete.
A preliminary review of the deputy’s assignment during the night of Feb. 7 confirms that a deputy was stationed on the third floor of the Conchetta housing facility throughout the night. The OPSO supervisor also visited the tier overnight Feb. 7 as part of a standard security check and logged the visit in the logbook.
Since arriving in custody in June 2012, inmate Russell received regular medical and mental health exams. He was seen by the psychiatrist and social worker regularly, where he received antidepressant medication and counseling. Based on his housing assignment, inmate Russell also received additional nursing evaluations three times a week that focused specifically on mental health complaints and suicidal ideation. During all of these evaluations over the recent months, inmate Russell did not demonstrate suicidal tendencies.
During the first portion of his incarceration, inmate Russell voiced suicidal thoughts and depression relating to his charges and inability to contact his family. At that time, he was transferred to the mental health tier, placed on suicide watch, and was started on medication for depression. Over the subsequent months, his medications were adjusted to good effect and inmate Russell voiced satisfaction with his regimen. At his most recent visit to the mental health staff, less than a week before his death, inmate Russell was in “good spirits”, voiced satisfaction with his medication changes, and denied suicidal ideation.
Inmate Russell denied being suicidal, upon multiple questionings during recent months. Therefore, he was not on suicide watch, which calls for a deputy to monitor him on direct observation. He was housed in protective custody and monitored accordingly. He was also seen by a psychiatrist and social worker. Russell was last seen in clinic on Friday, Feb. 1. During that examination, he had no physical complaints, and denied suicidal ideation.
The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, like other Sheriff’s Offices nationwide, does have a medication policy that allows inmates to take certain medications on their own. In cases of inmates suffering from mental or physical illnesses, medications are administered by a licensed medical professional. Only when the patient is clinically stable, which is determined and documented in the medical record by the psychiatrist, is he or she allowed to participate in a limited keep on person program.
This policy was examined by the US Department of Justice, during their three-year review of the operations of the jail. The Dept. of Justice did not include any changes to this policy in the consent decree that has been agreed to by that Department and the Sheriff’s Office. It is also examined in conjunction with the OPSO’s regular accreditation review with the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCHC). The NCCHC has never recommended changes to this policy.”
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