Prisoner had to give himself insulin

Friday, September 25, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

James Franklin

Thursday story

COVINGTON -- A diabetic prisoner who died in a Kenton County isolation cell in June was expected to administer his own insulin, Jailer Don Younger said Thursday.

The lawyer representing the prisoner's family questioned why the 68-year-old heart patient was allowed to continue medicating himself, given the deputies' descriptions of how disoriented he had become.

However, the jail's medical personnel apparently thought otherwise, Mr. Younger said.

"From the knowledge that I have, he was deemed capable of giving it to himself," Mr. Younger said. "A staff member had taken the insulin to him when they found him dead."

Upon finding James Franklin dead about 5:30 a.m. June 26, the deputy who was delivering the prisoner's insulin immediately summoned help, Mr. Younger said.

The death of Mr. Franklin, a former state government worker, prompted a local squabble over jail conditions to escalate into something more serious, including a request for state intervention. The police investigation into Mr. Franklin's death found nothing suspect, according to Detective Matthew Rolfsen's final report.

According to the autopsy, the man died of diabetes and heart disease. But Scott Greenwood, who is representing the late prisoner's family, is considering asking an outside entity to investigate anyway -- possibly the FBI. It looks into alleged violations of civil rights.

Mr. Franklin worked 26 years in maintenance at the Kentucky Department of Transportation's district office in Crescent Park. He started there in 1966 and stayed until he retired in May 1992 at age 62.

Mr. Franklin was taken to the jail June 13 after firing a gun at a Covington police officer. He was at the Garrard Street Convalescent Center that day, and workers called police because he had a gun. No one was hurt.

His second wife, Dora Mae, was a cook at the nursing home when they divorced in 1990. It was not clear whether she still works there.

Thirteen days after his arrest, Mr. Franklin was found naked, lying on his back on a mat in the cell next to a half-eaten orange and a sandwich. The cell was dirty with his own waste. Several deputy jailers told police he soiled himself repeatedly and often took off his clothes.

Even as graphic details emerged of Mr. Franklin's death, county officials remained focused on the jail's crowding and staffing problems, as well as the need for a new jail.

Kenton County Commissioners Steve Arlinghaus and Bernie Moorman said the inadequate facility and crowded conditions are major factors in the jail's problems.

And while Mr. Younger had fought a proposal to eliminate the jail's licensed practical nurse during a past budget process, he said factors other than medical staffing levels likely contributed to Mr. Franklin's death.

Mr. Younger said a short-term solution is to boost staffing levels, which have dropped from 92 to 75 full-time employees in the past four years. He added that the ultimate solution is to build a single-story jail that includes medical areas. The present jail occupies the basement, eighth, ninth and 10th floors of the Kenton County Administration Building.

"Ninety-nine percent of what is happening here is (because of) the facility design and overcrowding," Mr. Younger said. "And it's compounded by inadequate staffing."

Mr. Greenwood responded: "Overcrowding doesn't mean you have to lie in your own waste."

The lawyer also balked at the suggestion Wednesday by a state corrections official that the problems between the jailer and county officials could be solved by the two sides communicating better.

"Talking would not have prevented his death," he said.

Jail employees told police investigating the death that Mr. Franklin had been moved from one of the main floors in the jail to the basement intake center so that they could keep a better watch on him. The intake center has five deputies on duty, compared with two for each of the jail's upper floors.

Jail nurse Pam Sams, who noticed Mr. Franklin's deteriorating condition, said she urged officials to move him to a health care facility, according to a Kenton County police report. Mr. Younger said Thursday that she notified Mr. Franklin's attorney and the prosecutor of his poor condition. However, he said neither the nurse nor other medical staff chose to send Mr. Franklin to a hospital, as they could have.

Ms. Sams could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Deputy jailer Tonya Seale was fired because she was supposed to check on Mr. Franklin, as well as other prisoners, every 20 minutes. She told police she last saw him between 1 and 2 a.m.

"Could (Mr. Franklin's death) have been stopped?" Mr. Younger said. "I don't know. But I know this person was totally irresponsible in doing her duties."

Time for investigation?<
Thursday story

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