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Jail Commander Responds To Criticism Of Inmate Medical Treatment

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Jail Commander Captain Shane Nelson is speaking out about allegations that deputies didn’t take seriously a medical emergency that eventually led to the death of an inmate. In jail surveillance footage from December 14, deputies can be seen mocking Edwin Mays III and laughing at how he was acting in his cell. Hours later, he died of a methamphetamine overdose.  


Capt. Nelson, who will take over as Sheriff in July, tells KBND News, "We shouldn’t have made fun of people on the video, that’s a given. And we’ll try and be better. But, in a difficult business, sometimes that dark humor that helps people vent emotion and just try and get through a day, and after dealing with negativity and the bad things in the world, sometimes that bleeds through. All we can do is take a look at it and try and get better."  


He says, "We hire human beings; we don’t hire robots. The reason we hire human beings is the same reason we’re good at what we do, and good at having that strong relationship with the community." The Oregon Department of Justice is now conducting an investigation into Mays' death, and reviewing the actions of deputies. Capt. Nelson says he was not on duty that Sunday night, but responded to the scene when medics were called.


The jail is now making changes to how it provides medical care. Capt. Nelson says the increased nursing presence is not in direct response to the Mays death. "It was already on the books, but having an incident like this just helps us make that decision and get that ball rolling, July 1." He says there is always a deputy on-duty trained in CPR and First Aid, but until now, nursing staff has only been available on a part time basis. In July, nursing staff will become part of the full-time employee pool and available at the jail 24-hours a day.

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