Oklahoma’s Tulsa County Will Pay $350K in 2009 Jail Death Lawsuit

March 1, 2019

Tulsa County has reached a $350,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed by the estate of a local jail inmate who hanged himself in his cell a decade ago.

The settlement was agreed to last week with Carolyn Cox, the mother of 32-year-old Charles Jernegan, the Tulsa World reported.

Court documents show the county doesn’t admit to wrongdoing and settled the case to avoid additional legal costs

Cox filed the lawsuit in 2011, alleging that former Sheriff Stanley Glanz allowed and supported “a continuing practice of deliberate indifference toward inmate health and safety.”

The lawsuit said jail staff knew Jernegan had a mental illness but provided inadequate care to prevent him from hurting himself. While being jailed numerous times in the months leading up to his last incarceration, Jernegan sought assistance through the jail’s kiosk system, which inmates use to submit requests for medical or mental health attention.

Each time, sometimes days later, he’d receive what Cox labeled a “boilerplate” response: “You will be added to the mental health call out list. Please keep in mind (the psychiatrist) is only here 3 days a week.”

During booking just before his death in July 2009, Jernegan’s answers to a mental health screening referral form should have caused jail staff to refer him for a mental health evaluation, but no such referral was made, according to court documents.

He made his final request the next day through the kiosk system, and about 22 hours later, he received a response similar to his previous requests. He was later found hanging from his bed sheet in his cell around 9:30 a.m. July 30, 2009. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health probed Jernegan’s death and found that the Tulsa County jail’s methods for emergency medical and health care services were in “direct conflict” with the Oklahoma Jail Standards, according to the lawsuit.

The sheriff’s office paid a $10 million settlement over another jail inmate’s death in 2017.

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