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Deaths in Prison: Not Just High-Profile Cases

Posted by Steve Karimi | Aug 19, 2019 | 0 Comments

News of Jeffrey Epstein's death rocked the media on Saturday, August 13, 2019, when it was reported that he had hung himself in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. Epstein had been charged with child sex trafficking and had reportedly attempted suicide two weeks before.

Due to Epstein's wealth and connections to many media and political figures, conspiracy theories immediately began flying across Twitter and Facebook. How could someone so prominent have been left alone long enough to have hung himself? Details about the Epstein suicide are unfolding every day, but the sad fact is that inmates die horrible deaths while they are incarcerated, even here in Washington state.

National Crisis

Despite the United States being one of the most powerful and wealthiest countries in the world, its criminal justice system is a mess and many people, simply because they've never had to deal with it, don't realize how dire things are. From overzealous laws and statutes that have sentences that far outweigh the crime to overcrowding and aging prison populations that are woefully understaffed or staffed with personnel who have little to no experience with dealing with incarcerated people, it is a perfect situation for tragedies to happen.

In 2016, Terrill Thomas, who had bipolar disorder, was arrested for firing a gun in a casino in Michigan during what his family said was a mental health crisis. His erratic behavior was seen as unruly behavior by the jail guards so they turned off the water to his isolation cell. He died of dehydration after going seven days without water. In 2012 Daniel Chong was arrested during a Drug Enforcement Agency raid and was put into an isolation cell in San Diego. He was left unmonitored for five days and drank his own urine to stay alive. 

Washington Jail Deaths

A recent series of stories from Oregon Public Broadcasting gave an in-depth look at inmate deaths in Washington and Oregon. Neither Washington nor Oregon are very good about keeping records of inmates dying in their county jails, but it is estimated that 308 prisoners have died after being taken to county jail.

State authorities leave tracking these types of numbers to the federal authorities, but the federal government's numbers are outdated because they rely on the states to volunteer data. In Washington, county jails had a mortality rate of 123 deaths per 100,000 inmates. In 2012 that rate had climbed to 162, and although the numbers aren't complete for 2018, officials estimate that number is now closer to 200.

In 2012, Michael Saffioti turned himself into Lynwood police for a marijuana misdemeanor charge that had been filed against him. Saffioti had asthma and was severely allergic to lactose, so he was booked into Snohomish County Jail because Lynwood's city jail could not accommodate his medical needs. He died a few hours after being served oatmeal with milk products in it for breakfast.

Defense Attorney Steve Karimi

If you are facing charges that could lead you to be incarcerated in a Washington county jail or prison, you need a strong defense to defend your rights and possibly keep you alive. Steve Karimi is a former prosecutor who now defends those accused of committing crimes in Seattle and the surrounding areas. Call the Law Offices of Steve Karimi at 206-621-8777 for a free consultation of your case or fill out a contact form today.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.