Search for solutions to Louisville’s civil rights violations must include stakeholders

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


After a near 12-month reprieve, another person has died in Louisville’s jail. 

Richard Graham, 34, allegedly overdosed in Louisville Metro Department of Corrections’ (LMDC) facility early on the morning of May 19. The staff and others held in the jail attempted to provide aid to Graham but were unable to prevent his death. 

Members of Stakeholders for Change at LMDC have worked in partnership with city officials to enact meaningful change in Louisville’s jail, and there has been progress. The fact that there was reportedly Narcan available to try to save Graham’s life is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the Stakeholders, particularly the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health, and jail officials.

Citizens group demands new medical provider, end of overcrowding at Louisville jail where 12 died

But while all parties involved want to ensure those who are in government custody are treated humanely and with dignity, stakeholders and directly impacted people continue to be left out of important conversations about how to accomplish this goal. 

Clearly, access to contraband in LMDC is a huge issue, as evidenced by Graham’s death and the deaths of several others over the past two years. While LMDC has taken some steps to reduce the amount of contraband making its way into jail cells, there is much more to be done to keep safe those held in custody there.  

City officials MUST include community members and organizations who are working in the criminal legal space in conversations about solutions to systemic issues. 

There is a current opportunity to do just that in the consent decree negotiations between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice. Just last month, in a Courier-Journal article, the Justice Department’s Deputy Chief of Special Litigation Paul Killebrew said: “Every time we have a consent decree, stakeholders come to us with better ideas than the ones that we had […] we then modify the consent decree in order to make it make more sense.”

 It is only fitting, then, that stakeholders be involved early in the process, saving time, effort and, ultimately, lives. 

Barely 24 hours prior to Richard Graham’s death, Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) made another arrest. A world-famous golfer was charged with, among other things, second-degree assault of a police officer, which is a felony. He was released a mere 90 minutes later of his own recognizance, with no bail. 

If Richard Graham had only been detained for 90 minutes, he might still be alive today.

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