State inmate’s death was from drug overdose

djournal-alcorn-county

By Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – An autopsy report on the October 2013 death of William “Danny” Whitaker revealed the Mississippi Department of Corrections inmate on overnight leave from the Alcorn County Jail died from an overdose of multiple drugs.

Alcorn County Coroner Jay Jones would not say what the drugs were, but in releasing results this week from the state medical examiner’s report, Jones said they were illegal drugs and not prescription drugs.

Whitaker, 56, died while he was on overnight leave from the Alcorn County Regional Jail. However, he was not eligible for the overnight leave, and the resulting investigation of his death revealed several inmates who were not eligible under state statute and MDOC policies had been permitted leave. As a result, MDOC temporarily suspended transfer of inmates to the jail.

The Alcorn County Board of Supervisors in December approved an agreement with Mississippi Corrections Management to operate the facility for two years, and the jail received new state transfers on Dec. 17.

MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps said in a press release that the county’s decision to contract with Mississippi Corrections Management satisfied him that the county’s violations of state law and MDOC policies in permitting leave to unapproved inmates would be resolved.

MCM has begun restructuring operations at the jail, said MCM President Irb Benjamin.

Changes include appointing Keith Latch as chief operating officer, he said. Latch had previously served as chief of security for the county jail, but his role now expands to encompass state inmates and work-release prisoners.

Also on the management team are Amy Daniels and Randy Hodges, who will work on compliance issues, Benjamin said.

Doug Mullins completed his term as warden on Dec. 31, after his position was eliminated under the reorganization. He had served in the position since November 2011, and prior to that time was chief deputy for the Alcorn County Sheriff’s Department.

“Our main thing we’re trying to do is line our employees with the jobs that need to be done,” Benjamin said. “We’re ready to go on and fill in the other positions we need. We’re going through some staff changes to build all the security structure, but our goal is to do the best job possible running the jail.”

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com