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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County Jail records eighth inmate death in 14 months

The Spokane County Jail is pictured June 28, 2018. On any given day, about 4,700 people held in Washington jails are eligible to be released based on their likelihood to commit new crimes and show up to court before trial, according to a new report from the state auditor’s office. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A female inmate at the Spokane County Jail was pronounced dead at a local hospital Saturday evening after being found unresponsive in her cell.

Jared Webley, spokesman for the county, said the woman was discovered at about 5:30 p.m. He said jail staff and medics provided life-saving efforts on the way to the hospital. She was confirmed dead by hospital doctors.

Hours later, the woman’s cellmate was taken to a hospital for a medical emergency at about 10:30 p.m., Webley said. As of Sunday afternoon, Webley said, the woman was alive.

The county did not release any further details or the identities of the inmates. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the deceased woman’s identity in addition to cause and manner of death.

The death is the eighth in the facility in the past 14 months. Since June 15, 2017, three inmates have hanged themselves with bedsheets. One man died in the jail’s booking area in March of causes that remain to be determined, another in June of this year possibly as the result of an attack by his cellmate. In late July, a 26-year-old woman was found dead in her cell, also of causes that have yet to be determined.

Just two weeks ago, a man died after a brawl with a cellmate in a 10-person cell in the jail’s annex in the Public Safety Building. His attacker, 35-year-old Anthony J. Weber, was charged days later with second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death.

The recent string of deaths and suicides at the jail have come under scrutiny by families of the inmates. In late June, and in response to a string of hangings, the jail announced it would remove bedsheets from the facility and hire a suicide-prevention expert.

Sgt. Tom Hill, spokesman for the downtown jail, said in mid-July he planned to review the circumstances of each incident, possibly with the help of a consultant, to learn if and how they might have been prevented.

In mid-August, the county announced the hiring of Lindsay M. Hayes, a suicide prevention specialist and the director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, according to his staff description on the organization’s website. The jail said it would also be providing medical staff with buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid dependency.

Staff writer Chad Sokol contributed to this report.