Inmates sometimes die in jail. They don’t usually die with drugs all around them. Yet that’s what happened to an upstate New York man in November, 2017.
New York’s jail inmate death numbers are lower than many other states with large populations. In 2014, 37 inmates died in New York jail cells, compared to 145 in California, 83 in Florida, 74 in Texas and 47 in Pennsylvania.
Noel Colon, 28, was arrested for driving while high on drugs, drug possession and criminal possession of a hypodermic needle. The day after his arrest, he was found dead in his cell – surrounded by four bags of fentanyl. How did a man processed through the sheriff’s office into a jail cell end up with all these drugs?
A claim has now been filed against the Livingston County, New York’s sheriff’s department to get to the bottom of it.
When asked why the sheriff’s office should be held responsible for someone who took drugs and subsequently died, a spokesperson for Colon’s family replied that he was under the control of the sheriff’s office at the time.
"How did the fentanyl get into the cell with him after he passed through the hands of the Sheriff's department and the people who were on duty?" asked the lawyer.
He adds that no one apparently supervised Colon, who was just put in a cell and later died. The claim includes allegations of wrongful death, negligence, gross negligence and lack of protocol, but does not deny Colon was a drug user. The advocate compared putting a drug addict into a jail cell with drugs was like giving them a loaded pistol.
An Immediate Relapse
On November 2, 2017, a sheriff’s deputy arrested Colon as he left I-390 at the Mount Morris exit. Colon had left an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility just two days earlier, relapsing almost immediately.
After his arrest, he was put in pre-arraignment detention, where he was found not breathing and unresponsive the following day. Medical personnel could not revive him.
According to his girlfriend, the mother of Colon’s 6-year old daughter, Colon was addicted to painkillers. The mother told the daughter her father died from an illness. Colon’s obituary states he “loved sports but his passion was baseball. He was a great kid and will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure to know him.” His sister launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay for her brother’s funeral.
While the Sheriff’s Office would not comment on the lawsuit. An investigation has been launched by the department regarding Colon’s death, the results of the investigation are not available at this writing.
The Colon’s family spokesperson stated Colon had picked up 10 bags of fentanyl sometime after leaving the drug rehabilitation facility but did not comment on where the missing six bags had gone.
Fentanyl is one of the deadliest, most dangerous drugs an addict can use. This synthetic opioid is up to 500 times stronger than morphine and more powerful than heroin. A fentanyl overdose death usually results from respiratory failure.
Fentanyl was created in 1960 and approved by the FDA in 1968 for use in anesthesia and as a pain medication. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there were an estimated 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016, and approximately 20,000 of those were attributed to fentanyl and related synthetic opioids. That’s the largest increase of any type of drug death.
Fentanyl Inmates’ Deaths - Epidemic
Colon was far from the only inmate to die in jail from a fentanyl-related cause, but he was the only one know to have died with several bags on him.
A Bronx man died of a fentanyl overdose at Riker’s Island in New York City just a couple of weeks before Colon’s death. That inmate, Selmin Feratovic, also 28, apparently bought fentanyl in jail. A spokesperson for the Feratovic family asked, “How could a corrections facility allow such a pervasive drug culture to exist to the extent that someone overdoses on a drug like fentanyl?”
The family plans to file suit against the city and the New York City Department of Corrections.
In October, 2017, Brent Gibney, 29, an inmate at Ohio’s Franklin County Jail died at nearby hospital after overdosing on fentanyl. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department did say that “unknown white powder” was found in Gibney’s cell.
Gibney’s mother was actually informed of his death via another inmate, not the facility, and inmates later said her son was not attended to by emergency medical staff for 20 minutes after his overdose was reported.
These are just a few of many examples of recent inmate jail deaths due to fentanyl. Officials are obviously not doing nearly enough to stop the entrance and sale of this lethal drug into their jails. Perhaps these lawsuits will force the affected correctional departments to get their houses in order.
If your family lost a loved one in jail due to a preventable cause, you can help fix the system and you may be entitled to money damages. Check your legal rights at no-cost with our jail death law team. 866.836.4684 or Connect Online