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You can turn a Styrofoam cup inside out and still drink from it. Several years ago, an inmate at the Bay County Jail asked then-corrections officer Kevin Watson if he was aware of this interesting fact.  "I said something like I didn’t think he could do it, but he took that cup he had and carefully worked it with his hands until it was turned inside out," Watson said. Having successfully completed the task, the inmate asked Watson: "Do you know what the moral of this story is?" "What’s that?" Watson responded. I have nothing but time," the inmate said.

April 21, 2001Naples Daily News
An inmate awaiting trial on domestic violence, document forgery and attempted escape charges hanged himself in his cell at the privately operated Bay County Jail.  Sheriff's deputies said John Alvin Leggett, 38, used a bed sheet for a noose.  His body was discovered Wednesday during a bed check.  The jail is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, of Nashville, Tenn., under a contract with the county.  The sheriff's office is investigating the death.


October 7, 2002 News Herald
Six inmates at the Bay County Correctional Facility Annex on Nehi Road were charged Sunday with the beating death overnight of Chad Littles, 18, of Panama City.   Littles was serving time for failure to pay a fine –possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, resisting an officer without violence/violation of probation on an original charge of burglary of a structure.

Bay County Sheriff Guy Tunnell said James DeRossutt, also known as Nicholas Hulsey, 19, of Alabama; Malachi Najair, 25, of Callaway; Carlos D. King, 30, of Panama City; Larry Burks, 19, of Panama City; Jeremiah S. Hinsey, 18, of Evansville, Ind.; and Ronald Lawson, 24, of Fort Walton Beach assaulted Littles.   They are now in the main Bay County Jail and will make first appearances on the open charge of murder today.  

Tunnell said Littles was killed after an altercation in the B dorm of the minimum security annex, where about 80 inmates are housed. The fight began after a routine shakedown yielded an instrument for applying tattoos.   Tunnell said most of the inmates felt Littles had told Corrections Corporation of America guards about the tattooing tool. But Capt. Ralph Dyer of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said that was not the case.  "The sad thing is that Littles was not an informant," he said. "He was called back into his cell to unlock his locker, which guards could not open. The other inmates thought he was a snitch and that he had told guards about the tattooing tool."  

After guards let the inmates back into their cell pod, at least four of the defendants allegedly confronted Littles at the rear of the dorm and began to beat him.   Littles was able to get away temporarily and was trying to summon guards when King blocked his way and, according to witnesses, enticed the same inmates to "finish him.  At that time, according to Tunnell, DeRossutt came up behind Littles and pulled his feet out from under him, causing his head to strike the concrete floor with full force, knocking him unconscious.  Witnessses said Najair, Burks, Hinsey and Lawson then began to kick or hit Littles while he was lying on the floor. Guards arrived and summoned the on-duty nurse for CCA. The nurse then called EMS to transport Littles to Bay Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. 

October 8, 2002 News Herald
A county judge Monday said there was "no chance" he would allow six men accused of a jailhouse slaying to post bond.  They are accused of beating to death fellow Bay County Jail inmate Chad Littles, 18, on Sunday.

October 9, 2002 News Herald
Office of Emergency Services has intiated its own investigation this week into the death of a Bay County Jail annex inmate.  Sheriff's investigators said the Chad Littles, 18, was beaten to death Sunday by six other inmates at the annex on Nehi Road.  Bob Majka, chief emergency services, said his office oversees the contract between the county and Corrections Corporation of America, the operators of the Bay County jail and its annex.  He said Tuesday that a member of his staff was looking in to the death of Littles to ensure that jail staff performed in accordance with the jail's policies, and that those policies were in agreement with the contract.  Majka said his office has become more involved in monitoring activities at the jail since inmate Justin Sturgis, 20, died Feb, 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the main jail.  Both facilities are operated by CCA.  A grand jury handed down a presentment in the Sturgis case that was critical of how the situation was handled.  Steven Owen, CCA spokesperson, said Tuesday that jail personnel weren't responsible in any way for Littles death.  When Bay County contracted with CCA back in the mid-1980s, it became the first county in the country to turn its jail over to a private company.  Owen said there were cameras installed in the pod, but they didn't work.  They'd been installed 15 years earlier to monitor a specific remodeling project and hadn't been in operation since.  

July 8, 2003 News Herald
The third of six men charged in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate pleaded no contest to manslaughter Monday and faces 10 years in prison.  Jeremiah Samuel Hinsey, 21, was one of six men charged in the death of Chad Littles, 18, who died Oct. 6 at the jail annex on Nehi Road.

Investigators said six inmates beat Littles to death when they thought he was an informant for the guards.  Hinsey, Carlos King, 31, Ronald Lawson, 25, Nicholas Hulsey, 21, Malachi Najair, 25, and Larry K. Burks, 19, were charged.  King and Lawson entered pleas in their cases last month.  King pleaded no contest Monday to aggravated assault. He was accused of barring Littles’ escape from a group of inmates who had attacked him. It was while Littles was facing King, investigators said, an inmate swept Littles’ legs out from under him. Littles was kicked and beaten while he was down.  He died from a head injury. 

Lawson was one of those accused of kicking Littles. He pleaded no contest to felony battery.  Both men will be sentenced to five years in prison, according to court records, after all six cases have been disposed of.  Hinsey tentatively was scheduled for sentencing Sept. 22. He agreed to testify against the remaining co-defendants if called by the state.  Prosecutor Ashley Adams said additional depositions in this case are scheduled for August, which could move all the cases closer to completion.  Najair’s attorney said in court last month that he is considering a plea offer as well.  No contest means the men don’t admit their guilt, only that the state could prove they did the crime.  Littles’ mother sued Corrections Corporation of America Inc., the jail’s corporate owner, claiming the jail didn’t do enough to protect her son. The morning of Oct 6, guards conducted a routine security inspection in Littles’ cell pod, which was completed five minutes later.  Two minutes after officers left the minimum-security pod, an inmate came to the front of the pod and told the guards that an inmate was down, according to jail officials. 

June 11, 2003 News Herald
Malachi Najair might be the next Bay County Jail inmate to enter a plea in the beating death of Chad Littles Najair, 25, is charged, along with three other inmates, with second degree murder. He’s accused of participating in a beating Oct. 6 in the jail annex on Nehi Road that killed the 18-year-old Littles.  On the morning of Oct. 6 guards conducted a routine security inspection in Littles’ cell pod, according to Corrections Corporation of America, the jail’s corporate owner. The CCA said the inspection was completed five minutes later.  Littles’ mother, Frances Hughes, sued CCA, claiming it failed to provide the proper number of guards or monitoring equipment for the cell block, or train the guards properly.

June 10, 2003 News Herald
Two men entered pleas Monday to their involvement in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate in October. Carlos King, 31, and Ronald Lawson, 25, both face five years in prison after pleading no contest to lesser charges than the second-degree murder they were facing.  Chad Littles, 18, died Oct. 6 while being held at the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road. Investigators said six inmates beat Littles to death when they thought he was an informant for the guards.  Littles’ mother, Frances Hughes, and a representative from the attorney’s office handling her lawsuit against the jail’s corporate owner, Corrections Corporation of America, were in the audience to see King and Lawson change their pleas.  Hughes said in her lawsuit that CCA failed to provide the proper number of guards or monitoring equipment for the cell block, or train the guards properly.  

June 09, 2001News Herald
A man with an extensive criminal history, and facing another 30 years in prison, walked out of the Bay County Courthouse on Thursday with a little help from some friends.  Tracy Lashawn Collier, 35, was recaptured near a relative's house in Callaway Thursday evening. 

He'd escaped from Bay County Jail guards about 3:30 p.m. while visiting the law library on the third floor of the courthouse.  Collier has a criminal record that includes rape, escape, battery, resisting officers, possessing cocaine, passing worthless checks, grand theft auto and obstructing justice by disguise.  While at the law library, he asked the guards if he could use the restroom and was allowed to go in alone, the Bay County Sheriff's Office said.  When he didn't return after a period of time, the guards checked on him and discovered he was gone.

July 10, 2001News Herald
A man accused of escaping from jail officials last month to avoid prison could have received a harsher sentence Monday, but will still be behind bars until he's almost 50.  According to police, Collier walked out of the Bay County Courthouse law library and escaped from two jail guards.  Investigators said he asked the guards if he could use the restroom and they allowed him to go unescorted.  The guards, both Corrections Corporation of America employees, have been released by the company.


February 18, 2002 AP
Sheriff's deputies are investigating allegations that staffers at the privately run Bay County Jail failed to get medical attention quickly enough for an inmate who later died.   Justin Sturgis, 20, who had been charged with driving under the influence, died Friday from a rare reaction to a street drug, believed to be Ecstasy, Dr. George Tracy said.   The doctor treated him at Bay Medical Center where he died five hours after being booked into the jail.

An official cause of death will be made by the district medical examiner's office following toxicology tests.   Sheriff's investigator Ken Smiley said his initial investigation of the death indicated no criminal wrongdoing.   The jail is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, Tenn. Spokeswoman Louise Green said the company would comment only after it completes its investigation.  

Tracy said a jail nurse had called the hospital when Sturgis became sick. The doctor said he told her to keep monitoring the inmate but that it was unnecessary to immediately bring him to the emergency room based on her description of his condition.  

Other prisoners alleged that guards mocked the moaning Sturgis for two hours before finally calling an ambulance.   Jessie Powner, who was in a holding cell, said Sturgis was banging himself against a wall, kicking and biting his lip while other inmates yelled for guards to get a doctor.   "When we looked in the window, he was having uncontrolled convulsions,"   Powner told The News Herald of Panama City for Monday editions. "The guard was laughing and said he was going to be all right."  

Sturgis' uncle, Dave Junker, said he was told his nephew had asked for help three times.   "We're very concerned if there was some neglect in the time he could have went to the emergency room," Junker said.   Smiley said the remains of a plastic bag were found in Sturgis' stomach during an autopsy. That indicates he probably swallowed a drug to avoid having police find it in his possession when they pulled over his car

February 19, 2002 News Herald
Allegations that Bay County Jail guards mocked an ill DUI suspect - who later went into convulsions and died Friday morning - come as no surprise to local defense attorneys and a former correctional officer who worked at the jail for three years.   Inmates have said that guards did little to help 20-year-old Justin Sturgis, who reportedly told one correctional officer he had taken 10 Ecstasy pills. No one called for an ambulance until he went into cardiac arrest.  

Criminal defense attorneys, meanwhile, said some of their clients have complained for years about the way some Corrections Corporation of America employees have treated them. CCA contracts with the county to run the jail.   And an inmate who was in the jail at the same time that Justin Sturgis was showing signs of distress told The News Herald on Monday that guards were treating Sturgis like a "freak show" - parading other inmates by Sturgis to watch his behavior.

According to inmate witnesses and an investigator with the Bay County Sheriff's Office, Sturgis showed seizure-like symptoms a short time after being taken to the jail. He began shaking and told a correctional officer he had taken pills before being arrested.   A nurse at the jail called Bay Medical Center's emergency room about Sturgis. Based on what the nurse said, a doctor advised that the nurse monitor Sturgis for a couple of hours.   Inmates who said they were in the jail's holding area at the time said Sturgis' condition deteriorated, and guards did nothing until he went into cardiac arrest.  

Sturgis was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 7 a.m.   Dr. George Tracy, who treated Sturgis, said it's his belief that Sturgis suffered a rare reaction to Ecstasy.   A plastic bag, presumably containing drugs, was found in his stomach at the autopsy. The medical examiner will issue a final cause of death when toxicology reports are completed.  

Tommy Sims Jr. said he worked for the jail for three years in the late 1990s. Sims, who said he was fired because of allegations that he had sexually harassed women inmates, said he felt he had to come forward about conditions at the jail when he read about Sturgis' death.  

"Sure I've got faults, but the information I'm telling you about what goes on at that jail, you can put me on a polygraph and I'll pass it," he said.   He said that while he was working at the jail, inmates in need of medical attention were often ignored and that supervisors helped smooth over what he considered to be poor judgment on the part of guards. 

Sims said he wonders whether guards looked in on Sturgis when he was supposed to be under a medical watch.   He said the practice in such situations when he was at the jail was to simply post a note on the holding cell that the person inside was under medical watch.   "You are supposed to look at the inmate and sign off,"   Sims said of his experience as a jail employee. "The only problem is they don't do anything but sign off. They don't look inside."  

Inmates have reported that they tried to alert guards that Sturgis was in trouble and needed medical attention. An anonymous source, who is represented by criminal defense attorney Bob Pell, said he was at the jail during Sturgis' plight. He said Sturgis was either being made fun of or being ignored throughout the morning.  

"A lot of times these inmates are hollering out for different reasons," Sims said. "But it's almost like they've stereotyped it to be a troublemaker and so they yell out, 'Shut up!' or kick the cell door or threaten to mace them."  

Sims said that while he worked at CCA he violated some of the company's policies, but that so did most other officers.   Sims said correctional officers are sometimes fired when a problem occurs, but the problem isn't fixed. "If (CCA) figures they can tell the public, 'We got rid of so-and-so,' then the public thinks everything is all right," he said.  

Louis Green, the head of marketing for CCA in Nashville, Tenn., said it is the company's policy not to comment on statements that ex-employees give to news organizations. She also said that CCA could give out no information on the investigation into Sturgis' death.  

Pell said that he has heard complaints from his clients about their treatment at CCA for years.   "It's been fairly well known for a long time that there's a problem down there," he said. "There are several officers down there that are very responsible. In fact, some of the information I've gotten is from concerned officers who have seen people they feel should've gotten better medical attention than they received."  

Assistant public defender Kelly McIntosh said inmates' voices often go unheard, but that it could be hard to separate legitimate requests for medical attention from false ones.   McIntosh also said it is usually hard to prove if someone was denied proper medical attention.   "If I was a civil lawyer and trying to prove it, it's hard to prove because (correctional officers) are going to bind together and it's their word against someone in there who is convicted," she said.   "Who's a jury going to believe?"   

McIntosh said she believes video cameras should be installed in the jail to give inmates a credible witness.   "It's a Catch-22," she said. "Who's going to believe them - and it's a damn shame, it really is. But we hear it enough that I believe something is going on. But how do you prove it until something like this happens?"  

Attorney Waylon Graham said he was at the jail to surrender a client on Friday morning and saw CCA personnel and paramedics trying to revive Sturgis. He could tell the situation was bleak, he said.   "I've had clients that have had some trouble dealing with CCA's bureaucracy and them getting their medication," Graham said. "My experience with that is not some evil intent on the part of CCA - it's just dealing with the bureaucracy."  

Correction officers were talking about and showing off Sturgis' plight to arriving prisoners, a 24-year-old man who wished to remain anonymous told The News Herald on Monday. His version backed up those given by others who said they were present when Sturgis went into convulsions. "(The officer) was telling me I had to see this messed-up kid here tonight. He said he ate like 10 Ecstasy pills at one time," said the man, who is no longer in custody. He was wary of giving his name because of his pending criminal case.  

The man said he was being booked when the guard offered to show him Sturgis.   "It was the worst I've ever seen anybody on that drug before. He was all over," the man said. "I told (the guard) if he ate that many, you need to take him to the hospital and he was like, 'Oh, he's just a drug addict.'   "People were just looking in there like he was a freak show.

About an hour or an hour and a half later, no one was looking at that room anymore and a CO (corrections officer) came over and looked in and (Sturgis) was about dead.   "The only time people checked on him were when they were getting checked into the jail. They were showing him off."

February 21, 2002 News Herald
A man who worked at the Bay County Jail as a nurse said Wednesday that he quit last year because he felt pressure from correctional officers not to do his job and feared that an inmate eventually would die.   "And it happened," Jerry Militich told The News Herald.   "I knew it was going to happen, and I couldn't handle it. So I left. When I saw the paper, I had to call."  

Militich was referring to a story about the death of 20-year-old Justin Sturgis early Friday.   The specific pressure he said he felt was to avoid sending sick inmates to the hospital. Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the jail under contract with Bay County, must pay to transport prisoners to the hospital and pay for the medication that inmates receive. 

Militich said he worked for CCA for about a year during 2000 and 2001. He said Wednesday that some of the medical practices at the jail while he was there upset him.   Militich said correctional officers and supervisors at the jail often leaned on him not to send inmates to the hospital. In addition, he said, some inmates did not receive medication that had been prescribed them.  

Many inmates have complained to their attorneys and The News Herald about inadequate medical care at the jail.   Militich said that having to send inmates to the hospital was considered a problem at the jail.   "I was pressured not to send people to the hospital," he said.   "There is a lot of pressure because of a manpower shortage when you say, 'I want this guy to go to the hospital,' and they have to pull one or two (correctional officers) from somewhere else" to go to the hospital with the inmate.  

Militich said that sometimes inmates went days without the medication they needed - or worse, never got it.   "They would put (inmates) on something else other than the medication they were prescribed because of the cost," he said.   Sometimes the other medication was a generic brand, but sometimes not, he said.  

Militich's description of the practices at CCA are comparable to complaints inmates have made.   Inmates who were in the jail's basement Friday morning said they tried to alert officers to get Sturgis to the hospital, but the guards mocked Sturgis and let other inmates see his shaky condition.   An inmate who asked not to be identified said he was surrendering himself at the jail when he saw Sturgis convulsing at 3:30 a.m. It was two hours later when paramedics arrived, the inmate said.  

Militich said he resigned in mid-2001 because he did not feel that he got the backing he should have had to do his job. He said he never saw an inmate who didn't get medical attention because he treated them if they needed it.   Militich said that while he worked for CCA, some nurses at the jail were qualified, while others "needed help."   "I told one nurse before I left that she needed to get to a hospital and learn some assessment skills," he said. "That's pretty strong language to tell a nurse."  

Militich recalled guards mocking inmates for their medical condition.   He said one time correctional officers announced loudly that an inmate was faking a medical condition. Militich said that after he had the inmate sent to the hospital, doctors revealed that he had suffered a seizure.   During a similar incident, Militich said, he felt such pressure from correctional officers that he yelled out to them: "Well, hell, there's no reason for me to be down here. You are all apparently qualified to assess this person medically. Why do you need me?"   "That was frustrating, because obviously they weren't qualified," Militich said. 

February 24, 2002 News Herald
Justin Sturgis' gruesome death under jailers' watch was discomforting public intrusion, especially because, in some ways, it's as if it happened somewhere else.  Accountability for public institutions, and thus self-government itself, remains an unfinished portrait.  Sturgis' death wasn't mentioned at Tuesday's County Commission meeting, as surely it would have been had he died while taking part in a local high school football practice. Sturgis was in the custody of a private company, Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America. When the company has something to say, a CCA spokesman told reporter Todd Twilley, people will hear what people need to hear.

A defense attorney who beats a regular path to the jail told Twilley, "It's been fairly well known for a long time that there's a problem down there."   Fairly well-known by whom?   Perhaps it is good the public doesn't know a lot that is going on within public institutions, even privately managed ones like the jail. Just as perhaps, it is bad. With citizen oversight, maybe public officials - the ones who should be accountable - would know what is going on.  

Panama City police, who brought Sturgis to jail on a drunk-driving charge, apparently were unaware he had swallowed a potentially fatal number of Ecstasy tablets to avoid additional charges involving drugs.   At the jail, though, the whole line of command and custody - admissions personnel, medical personnel, guards - should have known his convulsions weren't just jailhouse malingering. The experts on such things, other inmates, knew.   Just keep an eye on him, a doctor at Bay Medical Center told the jail nurse by phone.  

The only sign of criminal wrongdoing that a Sheriff's Office investigator has turned up in the case didn't involve jail staff, however, the investigator told Twilley. It involved the plastic bag found in Sturgis' stomach during autopsy. We have no reason to think otherwise. Still, we believe criminal wrongdoing is too narrow a focus of an examination of what happened to Sturgis.  

Panama City police; the Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction over the jail; Bay Medical Center; and no matter the contracting, the Bay County Jail; all are public institutions. They are operated by public employees but not under public oversight.   The long-term value of grand jury oversight or charter-based citizen oversight is not to point the finger at who didn't do what he was supposed to, but to empower and enable citizens to know how things are supposed to work, and whether they do or not - here, and now. 

February 27, 2002 News Herald
The parents of Justin Sturgis have filed a notice that they intend to sue the Bay County Jail and perhaps Bay Medical Center for failing to properly care for Sturgis when he became fatally ill in a jail holding cell on Feb. 15.   Doctors believe that Sturgis, 21, died of malignant hyperthermia, a rare reaction to the street drug Ecstasy. The medical examiner will determine a cause of death when toxicology tests are completed.  Investigators believe Sturgis swallowed 10 tablets of Ecstasy during a traffic stop on U.S. 98 to prevent police from discovering the drugs.  

Inmates who were jailed with Sturgis told The News Herald that jail officials denied Sturgis medical assistance for two hours. The officials did not call for an ambulance until after the jail nurse announced that Sturgis' heart had stopped, the inmates said.   Inmates also alleged that correctional officers laughed and mocked Sturgis even as he was experiencing seizures.  

Attorney Wes Pittman said he will file suit against Corrections Corporation of America on behalf of the Sturgis family.   CCA is the private company contracted by Bay County to manage the jail.   "These parents do not want anyone else to suffer the grief they are experiencing right now," Pittman said. "Their motivation is to try and prevent this from happening to someone else.   "If the allegations made by other prisoners are correct, we are certainly looking at CCA for violations of certain civil rights afforded to inmates as well as being extraordinarily negligent."  "We do not see the county as the culprit," Pittman said.  

"It (the suit) is going to be against CCA and possibly the hospital.  Bay County Commission Chairman Cornel Brock said the commission is anxiously awaiting the results of investigations into the incident that the Bay County Sheriff's Office and CCA are conducting.   "The county is very much concerned," Brock said. "We don't take it lightly. An inmate who becomes seriously ill while they are incarcerated ultimately is the responsibility of the county.    

July 12, 2002 News Herald
Grand jurors are expected to decide today whether criminal charges will be brought against Corrections Corporation of America officials in death of an inmate in February. Justin Sturgis, 20, died the morning of Feb. 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the Bay County Jail, a CCA facility.  Inmates at the facility at the time of Sturgis’ death told The News Herald that guards taunted and laughed at Sturgis while he was in distress, and didn’t call for an ambulance until it was too late to prevent his death.   Sturgis’ family members filed notice about two weeks after his death that they intended to sue CCA.  

July 13, 2002 News Herald
Grand jurors started their second day of investigation Friday into the death of a Bay County Jail inmate with testimony from the emergency room doctor who treated him.  Bay Medical Center Dr. George Tracy was the first witness Friday.  Tracy told The News Herald after the incident that he told a jail nurse to monitor Sturgis' condition carefully and call him back, but the nurse didn't call him until two hours later.

July 18, 2002 News Herald
Grand jurors found Wednesday that no one was criminally responsible for a Bay County Jail inmate’s death, but have issued a presentment, meaning they have something to say about the matter.  Justin Sturgis, 20, died the morning of Feb. 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the Bay County Jail, a Corrections Corporation of America facility.   Attorney Wes Pittman, who expects to represent Sturgis’ family in a lawsuit against CCA and possibly Bay Medical Center, said the presentment will help his case. He said the family didn’t feel like it needed an indictment to justify how serious the situation was.   "Considering the hideous facts of this case, it was enough that the State Attorney’s Office would take this to the grand jury," Pittman said. "There were some very serious, bad things, in (the prosecutor’s) opinion, happening within the Bay County Jail."

August 8, 2002 News Herald
While grand jurors found no criminal liability in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate, their presentment found there were "serious deficiencies" on the part of jail personal "which led, or contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis" said CCA attorney Deeno Kitchen. 

However, the medical protocols the jail had in place were inadequate and weren't followed anyway, according to the presentment.  "Correctional personnel failed to demonstrate adequate health training in responding to the level of distress evidenced by Justin Sturgis," the jury's presentment stated.  In addition, policies that require a "system of structured inquiry and observation" to an inmate's medical condition were not adhered to.  "That structure was sorely lacking in the Sturgis case." 

The grand jury was empanelled in July to review a Bay County Sheriff's Office investigation into the incident and interviewed 18 witnesses, including jail and medical personnel.  The jury issued a presentment on July 17.  Named parties were given a chance to review the findings, and the presentment was made public Thursday.  Jurors singled out jail nurse William Schwarz Jr. and recommended that a copy of the presentment be sent as a report of his performance to the Florida Department of Health's Division of Medical Quality Assurance.  "William Schwarz was deficient in the performance of his duties as the facility's sole health care professional," the presentment said.  "Such deficiencies may have contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis." 

A specific problem jurors cited was apparent miscommunication between Schwarz and emergency room Dr. George Tracy.     Tracy testified that he told Schwarz to take Sturgis' vital signs and call him back.  Schwarz said Tracy told him to call back in two hours.  That prevented Tracy from getting Sturgis' information in an timely manner, jurors wrote. 

Harry Harper, Schwarz's attorney, said his client was the only nurse on duty that night in a jail that held more than 300 people.  The report did not address inmates' allegations the jail personnel taunted Sturgis.  The presentment recommended numerous changes in jail policy and procedures.  He said cameras had been installed in the holding cells to monitor inmate activities.  Kitchen, however, couldn't say if those cameras would record- the the presentment suggested- as well as monitor.  Kitchen said the jail also would try to set aside a specific area for distressed inmates where medical personnel could more easily monitor their condition. 

The presentment was critical of the fact that jail guards, instead of nurses, had to keep track of Sturgis' symptoms.  Green said the jail was audited recently and found in compliance with the provisions of the Florida Model Jail Standards and American Correctional Association Standards.  Grand jurors also recommended that the Bay County Commission look into the matter to see if it merits termination of the county's contract with CCA.  

August 13, 2002 News Herald
Attorney Wes Pittman said Monday he was angered by comments made by Corrections Corporation of America officials after a grand jury released its findings into the death of a Bay County Jail Inmate. Grand Jurors issued a presentment containing views, criticisms and suggestions Thursday after investigating the death of Justin Sturgis, 20, who died the morning of Feb. 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the jail, a CCA facility.  “It is a very solid finding of fault on the part of the grand jury as to the ludicrous nature of health care, or lack of health care, in the Bay County Jail,” said Pittman, who represents the Sturgis family 

While grand jurors found no criminal liability in Sturgis’ death, there were “serious deficiencies” on the part of personnel “ which led, or contributed to the death.”  Sturgis apparently swallowed 10 to 12 Ecstasy pills during a traffic stop, just before he was arrested for DUI.  He started suffering some degree of distress about 3 a.m., according to the presentment, but wasn’t taken to the hospital until three hours later. He died of malignant hyperthermia, a rare reaction to the drug.  His body temperature was 108 degrees when he was admitted to the emergency room, said a Bay Medical Center doctor. 

CCA representatives said Thursday that Sturgis caused his own death by swallowing the drugs to avoid prosecution and not telling the jail nurse what he had done.  “When Mr. Sturgis failed to give the nurse adequate information concerning the quantity and nature of the drug, he effectively removed any possibility of survival,” said Louise Green, CCA vice president of communications. 

Pittman, who returned to work Monday after being on vacation in Canada last week, said those comments did nothing to head off a lawsuit he plans to file late this week against CCA.  “It was almost laughable, the comments that the two CCA defense lawyers made following the publication of the presentment,” he said.  “In effect, CCA has issued a death sentence to any kid who takes drugs.  That’s hardly a commendable attitude for contract persons charged with the protection of individuals within their custody and who are unable to take care of themselves.  “Even someone who has subjected himself to an overdose of drugs must be cared for.  There’s no excuse in denying someone reasonable medical care.” 

Pittman said he’s been in contact with several people who have been denied medical care at the jail.  He said the lawsuit he intends to file might include plaintiffs other than the Sturgis family.  “It’s more than a weekly event that I’m receiving letters and telephone calls from people who have been deprived of medication that’s been prescribed to them,” Pittman said.  “They have been totally ignored just as Justin Sturgis was.” 

CCA attorney Deeno Kitchen said last week that over the last 30 months, jail personnel have taken 480 inmates to area hospitals with 81 being admitted.  “If we err at all, we err on the safe side every time,” he said.  “We take them and let the doctors make the call.  In this instance we followed what we understood the instructions to be.” 

Kitchen said Monday that the threat of a lawsuit wouldn’t stop the jail from adopting changes grand jurors recommended.  He said the rules of evidence would prohibit Pittman from using any improvements the jail made as proof of negligence.  “We want to do the right thing,” Kitchen said.  “If we’re going to improve it, we will improve it.” 

He said the jail provided a lawyer, Emily Dowdy, for inmates to go to with complaints. Dowdy said that a “very small percentage” of the numerous letters she receives daily from inmates are about medical care.  She said the media coverage of Sturgis’ death, and the grand jury’s investigation, sparked an increase in the number of medical complaints she receives.  “Both medical offices (at the jail and annex) are real good about following up on things when I call them,” Dowdy said  She said she contacts medical personnel about the inmate’s complaints.  She then writes back to the inmates asking that they contact her if their situation doesn’t improve.  “Some do” write back, Dowdy said.  “The majority don’t.” 

Pittman said the more he looks into the situation at the jail the more he uncovers.  

August 19, 2002 News Herald
While grand jurors found no criminal liability in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate, their presentment found there were "serious deficiencies" on the part of jail personnel "which led, or contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis." 

CCA representatives said Sturgis caused his own death.  However, the medical protocols the jail had in place were inadequate and weren't followed anyway, according to the presentment.  "Correctional personnel failed to demonstrate adequate health training in responding to the level of distress evidenced by Justin Sturgis," the jury's presentment stated. 

In addition, policies that require a "system of structured inquiry and observation" to an inmate's medical condition were not adhered to.  "That structure was sorely lacking in the Sturgis case."  Jurors singled out jail nurse William Schwarz Jr. and recommended that a copy of the presentment be sent as a report of his performance to the Florida Department of Health's Division of Medical Quality Assurance.  "William Schwarz was deficient in the performance of his duties as the facility's sole health care professional," the presentment said.  "Such deficiencies may have contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis." 

The report did not address inmate's allegations that jail personnel tainted Sturgis.  Grand jurors also recommended that the Bay County Commission look into the matter to see if it merits termination of the county's contract with CCA.

October 6, 2004 News Herald
Police are awaiting the autopsy report for a 22-year-old Springfield man before closing the investigation into his suspected self-inflicted death at the Bay County Jail during Hurricane Ivan. Bay County Sheriff’s Office Investigator John Sumerall said it appears that William Henry Cantor hanged himself from his jail cell bunk with a bedsheet Sept. 15. He said Cantor died alone in a jail cell located in a section of the jail used specifically for inmates who request to be isolated from other inmates.

February 20, 2005 News Herald
A 23-year-old Bay County Jail inmate faces a charge of introducing contraband into a corrections facility after he told a guard he was hiding money in his rectum, according to a jail investigation report. Chris Eckman of Panama City informed a jail guard Friday evening of a $100 bill hidden in his body, according to the report. The report does not explain the reason Eckman possessed the cash. Eckman is awaiting trial on charges of smuggling drugs into the jail , according to court records.

Eckman was convicted of burglary and grand theft in 2001 and placed on probation, according to court records. In 2002, he was arrested for violating probation and in 2004 was found possessing methamphetamine and Ecstasy inside the jail , according to court records.

February 21, 2005 News Herald
When Dana Knight awoke one morning in 1997 to find bloody handprints on a rented U-Haul truck and the driver’s window busted out, she didn’t have to think long about possible culprits. Living near the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road, she understands there is a risk of escapees coming onto her property. That is what happened in July 1997.

Four inmates — three with previous charges of murder or attempted murder — broke out of the jail annex. When one of them could not jumpstart Knight’s U-Haul, the group went to another residence and stole a vehicle, Knight said. Within about two days, all of the inmates were apprehended.

Knight and her husband, Dan, have two children, ages 6 and 11. The couple used to live near the main Bay County Jail in downtown Panama City, which keeps the most serious criminals in maximum security. "I don’t think the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) has done their job," she said, referencing an inmate takeover on Sept. 5 and 6 at the downtown jail. Four men were arrested in that incident and face kidnapping charges. CCA operates both facilities.


Bay County Jail
Panama City, Florida
May 20, 2005 News Herald

Corrections Corporation of America officials remain silent about a report issued by the county’s jail program manager stating a corrections officer did not properly account for an inmate later found dead from an apparent suicide. However, the family of James T. Sly Jr. has not stopped demanding answers from the company contracted to oversee the Bay County Jail. They want to know why the 35-year-old jail inmate was able to hang himself while under the control of CCA.

According to a recently released report by Bay County’s contract monitor, Roger Hagen, a jail guard identified as J. Harris "counted" James Sly as part of a midnight shift head count without seeing the inmate. The report states the guard "assumed" James Sly was in the shower because the shower water was running. Harris failed to follow CCA’s policy that requires guards to only count an inmate after seeing the person’s "living, breathing flesh," according to Hagen.

Hagen’s report conflicts with previous statements made by the jail’s warden, Kevin Watson, who in April told The News Herald that a preliminary investigation suggested that no CCA policies or procedures were violated concerning James Sly’s death. Watson also said no CCA employees had been reprimanded because of the incident. In his report, Hagen called on CCA to "take appropriate disciplinary action" against the officer and "provide special training for all officers" on the counting procedures.

On Thursday, Watson declined to comment further on James Sly’s death pending the outcome of the FDLE investigation. He also declined to comment on Harris’ status with CCA. A report from the FDLE is expected to be completed within the next two weeks.

May 17, 2005 News Herald
The correctional officer responsible for checking on inmate James T. Sly during the early morning shift on April 5 was supposed to see him "in the flesh." He did not, and that night Sly apparently hanged himself in the inmate showers. The death is still being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

However, an incident review by Roger Hagen, Bay County’s correctional program manager, found that the Corrections Corporation of America policies were not followed on the night Sly died. The fact Officer J. Harris did not physically see Sly when he was doing rounds is a violation of CCA’s policy "Count Principles and Procedures," Hagen says in the report, which was forwarded to the County Commission May 10. That finding counters Warden Kevin Watson’s preliminary investigation last month, which suggested that all CCA policies or procedures were followed on the night Sly died.

April 5, 2005 News-Herald
About three months after police thwarted a Springfield man’s attempt to kill himself on the DuPont Bridge, the 35-year-old was found dead inside the Bay County Jail on Tuesday morning. Jail officials said James T. Sly hanged himself at about 2:40 a.m. in the shower room of his fifth floor housing unit.

Because of the attempt to kill himself in January, Sly originally was placed in an observation unit of the jail and interviewed at least five times by a mental heath counselor, Thore said. About a month later, Sly was allowed to move into a general population pod on the fifth floor of the downtown jail and continued to receive treatment, Thore said. At about 2 a.m. on Tuesday, guards conducting a head count listed Sly as being in the housing unit’s shower area, Thore said. When guards returned about 30 minutes later to conduct another count, Sly’s cellmate said Sly still was in the shower, Thore said

April 13, 2005 News-Herald
A week after apparently hanging himself in a Bay County Jail shower, James T. Sly was laid to rest Tuesday in a Panama City cemetery. Special agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have not released the results of their investigation into the death of the 35-year-old Springfield man, said FDLE spokeswoman Lisa Lagergren.

Sly, a father of six children, was found dead in a fifth-floor shower room early April 5 by corrections officers, according to jail officials. Jail officials said because of Sly’s suicidal tendencies at the time of his arrest, he was placed in an observation unit of the jail and interviewed at least five times by a mental health counselor. Jail officials said counselors in February approved Sly’s move into a general population pod where he continued to receive treatment. Jail officials said Sly did not display signs that he wanted to hurt himself and guards had no reason to believe something was wrong when Sly requested to take a shower at about 2 a.m. on April 5

February 9, 2005 News Herald
The four men who investigators say took hostages during a Bay County Jail takeover in September may be ready for trial by late spring. James Norton, Kevin Winslett, Matthew Coffin and Kevin Nix are accused of holding nurses hostage during a jail standoff on Sept. 5 and 6. All four are facing kidnapping charges that could land them in prison for life.