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Wake jail officials step up oversight after inmate's fatal overdose

Wake County jail officials said in a letter released today they "categorically reject" any responsibility in the fatal overdose of a 19-year-old inmate. But they also said they have made changes to ensure inmates are appropriately watched.

Last month, the state Department of Health and Human Services' Jail & Detention unit said the jail did not provide adequate supervision of Ralph Madison Stockton IV, who was found unresponsive on a jail mat the morning of Nov. 6. Jails are supposed to observe inmates at least twice an hour to make sure they are alive, but the state said Stockton had been unobserved for 62 minutes.

A state report released last week raised more questions when sheriff's investigators told the medical examiner's office that Stockton was last seen alive at 11:30 p.m. the previous evening.

Stockton of Raleigh, the grandson of a prominent Winston-Salem attorney, died in the jail. An autopsy found that he had overdosed on methadone and other drugs.

The letter written by Dail Butler, the jail's director, said the jail has begun requiring detention officers to fill out and sign a sheet that lists each time they tour the cell floors. State officials received it last week.

"We will continue to stress the importance of supervision rounds in our line-ups, supervisor meetings and yearly in-service classes," Butler wrote. "If we find any area not in compliance, the Detention Officer will be dealt with and corrective action will be taken up to and including dismissal from the Wake County Sheriff's Office."

Butler also said supervisors will make sure that detention officers are not tied up on duties such as feeding inmates or running laundry so that inmates are adequately observed. Any supervisor who assigns duties that interfere with the observation rounds also faces disciplinary action, including possible dismissal.

Stockton died at a time when the jail had more inmates, 556, than beds, 480. The overcrowding was a concern raised by the state, and Butler said in his letter that the county expects to open a new jail that will add another 672 beds in about three months.

Jim Jones, a spokesman for the DHHS, said the state has accepted the jail's operational changes.

A copy of the letter is attached.

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