Ill. county board investigating inmate death following tasing
Board member Patricia Hayes said she was "overall concerned" about the operations of the jail following the incident
By Steven Spearie
The State Journal-Register
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A Sangamon County board member said she was "very concerned" about the use of force in an incident at the jail late Tuesday evening that later left an inmate dead.
Patricia Hayes, who is also a member of the board's jail committee, has requested a meeting with Sangamon County State's Attorney Dan Wright and fellow board member Kevin McGuire to see if any video of the incident exists.
Sheriff Jack Campbell said the Illinois State Police was conducting an investigation into the matter. Campbell referred all questions to the ISP.
Correctional officers used Tasers when Jaimeson Daniel Cody, 39, of Divernon, resisted health checks and attempts to handcuff him, according to a news release issued by Campbell Wednesday.
Cody, who had been arrested by Divernon Police and brought to the jail earlier Tuesday, was tased in the legs, the news release stated.
After Cody was handcuffed, he became unresponsive, according to the news release.
Medical staff immediately began CPR and an AED was brought to the scene. Emergency medical personnel arrived at the jail to take over CPR, the news release stated.
Cody was transported to Memorial Medical Center where he died shortly after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
A correctional officer who was conducting a regular cell check around 11:40 p.m. Tuesday observed Cody with what appeared to be blood on his jail-issued uniform.
According to the news release, the inmate had been in a cell alone and under observation. Officers attempted to determine if Cody had any injuries by talking to him but eventually entered his cell.
Cody resisted attempts for officers and medical staff to check him and to apply handcuffs, the release stated.
The ISP did not immediately respond to questions about the incident, including the identities of the correctional officers and their current status.
Cody was arrested for aggravated domestic battery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon (knife).
Cody had not been formally charged by the state's attorney's office at the time of the incident.
Hayes, who was elected to the county board in November, said she also was "overall concerned" about the operations of the jail and the use of isolation or segregation.
"I want to see the video of what happened," Hayes said Thursday. "I do want to get to the bottom of it. This is just very disturbing. These are pre-trial detainees and they have constitutional rights and I'm concerned those rights were violated."
Ryan Williams, an associate criminology professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, said the use of Tasers has always been controversial.
"Tasers aren't a very exact weapon," Williams said. "They're very problematic. They misfire. They're not very precise."
Tasers have been barred, Williams noted, by the two largest private prison operations in the United States. The federal prison system and about half of the state prison systems do not use Tasers, he added.
Williams said the courts are "pretty clear" that there has to be "some immediate danger to the officer" when Tasers are deployed and that they cannot be used to "simply gain compliance" of an inmate.
"Seventy percent of the time a wrongful death lawsuit will result by the family from a Taser death in a correctional facility and almost two-thirds of the time they win money," Williams said. "That is a very rare statistic in the criminal justice system. Wrongful death suits from Tasers in jails are very common. They're way more common than a police officer who did it on a street."
Shelly Heideman said four members from the Faith Coalition for the Common Good's transformational justice task force met with Campbell on Feb. 22 over the issue of isolating inmates. They also took their concerns to a March 9 meeting of the Sangamon County Board.
"We are concerned with isolation being used for mental health inmates when they should be getting mental health care," Heideman said Wednesday evening. "It's not safe. People could die in isolation for various reasons."
Heideman said she did not know the particulars of Cody's case.
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