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No Criminal Wrongdoing Found In Jailhouse Deaths

Posted at 5:13 PM, May 09, 2016

There was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing found in the deaths of two inmates at the Rutherford County Jail.

They were apparent suicides. The sheriff called them tragic but not criminal, and said more could be done to keep inmates safe and save taxpayers money.

While there may not be evidence of criminal wrong doing, it didn't end there.

The family of one of the inmates who killed himself has sued the county in civil court for $20 million.

"Every week we have people who try to commit suicide," said Rutherford County sheriff Robert Arnold.

He said preventing such deaths is part of the job. It had been more than two decades since an inmate killed himself in the jail - then suddenly two suicides in March.

The TBI investigated, and Arnold said the cases have been closed.

"It's a big relief for the sheriff and citizens of Rutherford county to know there is no criminal wrongdoing here," said Arnold.

Yet, the $20 million civil lawsuit suggests otherwise. Arnold said as the jail population grows, so should the jail staff. The jail held 1,100 inmates at last count.

"We do a great job with the resources we have, but we are susceptible to lawsuits because we are not properly staffed," said Arnold.

He has asked the county for 43 new officers to properly staff the jail. With budgets the way they are, he'll be lucky to get 12.

Arnold planned to tell the budget committee next week he was in need of more. "A lot of times it's pay now or pay later, but your going to pay. The county is going to pay," said Arnold.

After the suicides, he asked for the National Institute for Corrections to review the jail policies.

He believed they were sound, but said the real problem was the need for more officers in the jail to manage the growing inmate population.

The budget committee was scheduled to meet on May 17 to consider Arnold's staffing request.