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Riverside Regional Jail

Earlier this month, news that Chesterfield County officials have begun moving nearly 200 county inmates from Riverside Regional Jail over concerns of inadequate medical care was a smart move. The other counties and cities that house inmates at the facility might want to consider doing something similar.

On March 24, another inmate died at the regional facility. Michael Dillon, 29, had been booked into the jail four days earlier and was being held on charges of misdemeanor assault and vandalism. He apparently went into medical distress at 12:06 a.m. while being examined by medical personnel. He died after efforts to revive him failed.

Dillon’s was the third death to occur at the problem-plagued facility in the past eight months, and as noted in Tuesday’s RTD, it happened “less than a month after another inmate, Fred Lavigne, 53, apparently committed suicide in his cell.”

Lavigne was found unresponsive on Feb. 21, and in July, another inmate, William A. Brown, died of natural causes during a medical examination.

Allegations and complaints about chronic mismanagement at Riverside are nothing new. Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard told the RTD he has received near-daily phone calls, emails and text messages from concerned family members who say their loves ones incarcerated at Riverside are receiving poor or negligent medical care.

The jail is operating under a three-year probationary period after the suicides of two inmates in 2017. In all, there were five inmate deaths that year at Riverside. State officials have blamed staff shortcomings and policy violations for the suicides.

This past month, after only nine months on the job, Riverside’s newest superintendent resigned. Col. Carmen I. DeSadier came to the leadership position with 35 years of experience turning around troubled jails — including Chicago’s Cook County Jail. But the dreadful situation at Riverside proved too much even for her.

In her resignation letter, she wrote that the facility’s operations were plagued with chronic dysfunction and a toxic work environment. She noted that staff at the jail were unfamiliar with “best practices” in operations and the facility was beset with unsanitary conditions and lack of hygiene accommodations for inmates. In the 108-page letter of resignation, DeSadier warned “that Riverside had experienced long term management neglect.”

This is inexcusable. We recognize that incarceration isn’t supposed to be a bed of roses — but neither should it be a death sentence.

— Robin Beres

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