Last Tuesday, Matthew LaMont McCain, a 29-year-old inmate in the Durham County Detention Facility, died in his cell. The Durham County Sheriff’s Office reported that a member of the detention staff found McCain “unresponsive and immediately performed life-saving measures. The detention staff and medical personnel performed CPR until EMS arrived. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate Mr. McCain and he was pronounced dead at the detention facility.”
The Durham advocacy group Inside-Outside Alliance, a vocal critic of the jail’s policies, has suggested on its site that McCain’s death was the result of medical neglect. The group is in frequent communication with inmates.
Today, the Durham County Department of Public Health announced that it would be conducting an independent investigation into McCain’s death.
“DCoDPH will work with Detention Facility staff to recreate the timeline to understand events prior to CCS nursing staff observations on January 19, 2016,” a release states. “At the conclusion of the medical chart review and CCS staff interviews, a written summary of findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Public Health Director. Follow up is conducted per the request of the Public Health Director. This investigation is conducted independently from any concurrent investigation(s).”
“It is standard practice for the Durham County Department of Public Health to conduct its own independent investigation when there is an inmate death at the county jail,” DCDoPH communications manager Eric Nickens tells the INDY.
McCain’s death is just the latest troublesome scent wafting out of the jail. In December, two Durham detention officers were accused of pinning down a handcuffed prisoner and beating her in the head with closed fists. A “lockback” ordered last March by Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews resulted in inmates — many of whom are awaiting trial — being confined to their cells for all but two hours every day.
UPDATE: Durham County Sheriff’s Office offers some additional details: “Records show Mr. McCain was involved in an altercation with another detainee on January 14. He declined medical treatment and later visited the medical staff for an unrelated medical condition. Mr. McCain was housed in a single cell. He did not have a cell mate.” The office notes that the autopsy results could take several months.