LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In less than one year, 12 people who were in the custody of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections have died, according to jail officials. This week, there are new demands for changes from the community.
There has been at least one death every month since Nov. 2021, except for April, May and June, jail officials confirmed.
They include deaths by suicide and overdoses.
What You Need To Know
- In less than one year, 12 people who were in the custody of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections have died, according to jail officials
- This week, there are new demands for changes from the community
- The ACLU of Kentucky is calling on the city to terminate its contract with WellPath, which provides medical and mental health services
The ACLU of Kentucky learned of the most recent death while gathered with community members to call for changes at the jail.
“It’s just absolutely unbelievable,” said Kungu Njuguna, policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky. “It’s unnecessary and we need change today.”
LMDC said Bashar Ghazawi died Monday and that the department suspects his death was related to a drug overdose.
Ghazawi had been convicted of murder just hours earlier.
“I am disgusted that it seems another person has lost his life because of those who seek to profit by smuggling these dangerous substances into the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections,” LMDC Director Jerry Collins said in a statement. “We will continue to work hard every day to disrupt the drug trafficking that plagues our community and our jail.”
Njuguna said the city should end its contract with WellPath, a company that provides medical and mental health services at the jail.
“Specifically, we do not believe they are giving the appropriate medical care for the people who are housed in the jail,” Njuguna said.
Louisville Metro Councilwoman Amy Holton Stewart (D-25) told Spectrum News 1 there may not be enough mental health resources at the jail.
“I think that we can expand our mental health outreach and that may include bringing in additional resources, other providers to help with the needs in the jail,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think that WellPath is doing a bad job.”
A K9 unit has been effective at detecting drugs, but they’re not finding everything, she said.
Stewart said the city should look at the possibility of funding a new jail, but Njuguna said that’s not the answer.
“Think of the mental health beds we could provide, social workers, affordable housing, the stuff on education, all the things that would keep people out of the legal system than building a bigger cage, so no, we don’t need a new jail,” he said.
“I think that there’s no reason that we can’t do both, that we can’t expand mental health resources in the jail and provide a new facility somewhere down the road,” said Stewart.
LMDC provided a statement saying in part, “Like all vendors, WellPath’s ability to meet the needs of the incarcerated population is reviewed regularly. Director Collins is working closely with community stakeholders and WellPath to provide health care and mental health services that are designed to meet the changing needs of people in our care.”
LMDC said special attention is being given to the areas of mental health services and substance use disorder and that both a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist now see patients at the jail.
Spectrum News 1 has left a message with WellPath seeking comment on this story, but had not heard back at the time of publication.