Inmate death calls Muscogee County jail practices into question

Local News

COLUMBUS, Ga. – The death of a Muscogee County inmate last week is bringing the question of jail practices into light. A former sheriff’s candidate is weighing in on some concerns, as well as how the jail should be run.

News 3 spoke with Mark LaJoye, who says the death of Roger Tyler, who was found to have mental problems, might signal a bigger issue in the jail.

An inmate death at the Muscogee County Jail last week is calling practices into question.
An inmate death at the Muscogee County Jail last week is calling practices into question.

“He should’ve been watched properly and he wasn’t,” LaJoye said. “That falls squarely on the shoulders of the sheriff.”

LaJoye’s opponent last November, now Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins, says Tyler’s death was alarming and unexpected. She called the incident a random occurrence. LaJoye called for the jail staff to examine how they classify inmates, because some could have mental instabilities that lead to disastrous consequences. Sheriff Tompkins says a whole team is dedicated to that task already.

“[They] keep up with their movements in the jail and [make] sure they’re as safe as can be, based on their charges and perhaps sometimes they have issues with other inmates,” the sheriff told News 3.

LaJoye says the community is concerned about keeping criminals in jail, but also rehabilitating them and preparing them for their release back into society. He wants more programs to be put in place to help with that transition. Sheriff Tompkins says she’s still assessing jail policy.

“Policy is a thing that is a living, breathing organism,” Tompkins said. “It is always changing depending on new law, new procedures, new staff, inmate population. It’s always under review. We’re looking at everything in this facility as far as the programs and all of the contracts that we have in this jail. We monitor those to ensure that we’re getting what we’re paying for.”

LaJoye wanted to know why the same warden was still managing the jail. However, Sheriff Tompkins had no comment regarding that warden’s future. She did say that for individual cases and big picture concerns, they all take time to review and make changes if necessary. For LaJoye, he and several others across Columbus won’t be satisfied until they see results.

“Anything that happens in the jail is the ultimate responsibility of the sheriff,” LaJoye said.

Muscogee County officials say Roger Tyler died last week in an alleged suicide.

Sheriff Tompkins is awaiting the GBI to finish their investigation into the death of inmate Roger Tyler. She says she’s still evaluating all facets of the sheriff’s office one month after taking over for former Sheriff John Darr.

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