Jailer releases statement on inmate death

Published 3:50 pm Monday, November 1, 2021

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After reports of an inmate death were made early Sunday morning, Jailer B.J. Burkhart has released a statement regarding the incident.

“It is with a heavy heart that I do confirm one of our local people lost their life in the early morning hours on Sunday morning, Oct. 31, 2021, while in the Harlan facility,” he said.

The Harlan County Detention Center inmate that was held in “D cell” had reportedly hung himself in the detention center showers where he died.

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The information was submitted from multiple individuals, some from employees within the detention center, between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

These individuals have asked to remain anonymous.

Kentucky State Police at Post 10 in Harlan received the call regarding the inmate at 3:20 a.m., when the detention center advised they located an inmate unresponsive.

KSP Trooper Brandon Pierson and Detective Jacob Middleton responded and began an investigation.

Deputy Coroner Jim Rich responded and pronounced the inmate dead at the detention center.

An autopsy is scheduled at the Medical Examiner’s Office in Louisville, according to a press release from KSP.

“As with any incident of this nature, our staff notified the Kentucky State Police and the matter is under their jurisdiction moving forward,” Burkhart said. “While their investigation is active, all inquiries must be submitted to KSP.”

Burkhart said his focus has been aimed at the family of the inmate, offering his condolences for their loss.

“My heart truly goes out to this family, the spouse, children, grandchildren and the close friends of the individual and the impact you (the inmate) left on their lives. My prayers and the prayers of our staff are with you all,” he said.

Burkhart said the cell the inmate was being held in was an “open-dorm” layout, where individuals could move around freely. Detention center employees preform regular floor checks to watch inmate activity.

“The one he was in, there’s approximately 30 beds. There’s no bars or doors separating them from anything. They can get up and go to the bathroom when they need to,” he said, noting inmates are able to shower when needed instead of doing so at set times.

Burkhart encouraged locals and individuals from the surrounding areas to remember the inmate’s family “during this impossibly difficult time.”

No foul play is suspected.

The case remains under investigation by KSP Detective Jacob Middleton.

The Enterprise will update as more information becomes available.