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No criminal charges in inmate's death in Macomb County jail

The criminal justice system has become the clearinghouse for many of society's ills. The problem is, it is the CRIMINAL justice system and it views the individuals who pass through it as criminals and treats them accordingly. Unfortunately, many who pass through the back doors of a police cruiser on their way to a county jail or lockup may have other problems.

The death of a man in police custody in the Macomb County jail in 2014 led to an investigation of the facility by the U.S. Attorney's Office. That office has now issued a statement that indicates it did not find sufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing to bring charges based on federal civil rights laws.

The man was charged with a failure to appear in court after traffic ticket for careless driving. He apparently had $772 in fines he could not pay, so was sent to the Macomb County jail for 30 days. While there, he appears to have suffered severe withdrawal effects from prescription drugs, lost 50 pounds and died at the facility.

While there may not have been evidence of criminal intent on the part of law enforcement in the jail, a civil suit is proceeding which will be based on negligence. The County's sheriff claims the county's medical health care provider was responsible for making medical determinations for inmates.

The ACLU is still insisting that the Justice Department investigate the county's practices at the jail involving the treatment of mentally ill and substance-dependent inmates and the use of jail time for those who cannot pay fines.

The criminal justice system, as embodied by sheriff's offices and jail facilities have a huge role in how justice is delivered. As cases like this show, they need to be much better at handling these individuals in order to prevent the county from potentially being held liable for multimillion dollar judgments and to stop traffic tickets from becoming capital crimes.



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