Report blasts jail understaffing |

Report blasts jail understaffing

Tribune News Service

A grand jury report says three suicides in the past year at the Douglas County jail in Minden reflect ongoing staffing problems.

“…Administrators characterized the three suicides as unfortunate but not surprising given the critical shortage of personnel available to run the jail,” according to the report. “The view was that another suicide could occur at any time and that all that could be done was being done.”

The 2000-2001 Douglas County Grand Jury concurred with investigators’ findings that “each inmate died at their own hands and not as a result of any criminal conduct.” But it also cited repeated examples of “supervisory failure” in handling jail problems.

“It is hoped that the administration will take swift and appropriate action to remedy the grand jury’s concerns in jail oversight and leadership,” the report states.

Sheriff Ron Pierini could not be reached for comment late Friday.

One of the suicides involved Thomas Robert Soria Sr., who took an overdose of sleeping medication just after his trial began in January for the murder of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman. The report described Soria’s treatment by deputies as a “hands off” inmate, which may have made it easier for him to hoard medication.

“Deputies were instructed to leave the inmate alone and not annoy him for fear of receiving complaints from his attorneys,” the report states. To that end, “the overriding feeling among jail deputies was that short of any security breach, Soria was not to be upset or disturbed.”

Further, just before he died, deputies granted Soria’s request to dim the lights because he was having trouble sleeping, “a request apparently lost on personnel who were administering sleep medication to him.” Deputies also placed a sheet of paper over his cell window because Soria said other people were staring at him.

The Grand Jury issued seven recommendations, including an immediate increase in the number of deputies assigned to the jail. It also called for tighter supervision by the sheriff and a revised medication policy.

In other public safety findings, the report says the county needs to look at expanding fire and paramedic services in Carson Valley, perhaps using the new Station 7 in the Gardnerville Ranchos – which combines paid paramedics and volunteer firefighters – as a model.

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