Troubled Gallia County Ohio jail faces two new lawsuits

Gallia County Ohio prison faces two separate lawsuits, both of which have been brought before the federal court.

According to The Associated Press, Gallia County prison on the southern tip of Ohio has undergone intensive testing in recent years. Four inmates fled the facility in 2019, while other prisoners and their family members reported regular abuse.

One of the two lawsuits, the AP said, was filed last month by the ex-wife of a man who passed away in December 2018. In her complaint, the woman claims that correction officers and sheriff MPs ignored her ex-husband's requests for medical attention. Although the man was recommended for hospital transfers by internal emergency technicians, he was denied further treatment and died shortly afterwards.

The second lawsuit was filed by Debra Smith, a correction officer who was injured in the 2019 escape attempt. Smith claims that the Gallia County sheriff, Matt Champlin, along with other correction staff, regularly failed to comply with the facility's security guidelines.

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Because of Champlin's alleged negligence, Smith was attacked during the 2019 escape attempt when the four inmates overwhelmed her.

Smith's lawsuit states that, along with another female guard, they were the only two correction officers who were present on the night of the attempted escape. This is despite a Gallia County prison guideline that requires female guards to be assigned to female inmates only.

Champlin has since admitted that the prison in the basement of the Gallia County courthouse has had problems for years.

Even so, Andrew Yosowitz – a lawyer for both Champlin and the county itself – said he did not believe that an inmate-instigated attack should entitle Smith to damages.

"However, while we continue to support Debra Smith, we disagree that the inmates' decision to attack Ms. Smith entitles them to compensation," said Yosowitz in a statement emailed to The Associated Press earlier this week has been.

The Gallipolis Daily Tribune notes that the district prison and its administrators have received widespread criticism in recent years. In November, another inmate – David "Tommy" Gibson (27) – committed suicide in his cell.

Gibson should be on drug addiction watch at the time of his death. While prison policy dictates that inmates be placed in an easy-to-watch cell on detention watch, Gibson was reportedly detained in isolation where he committed suicide.

Gibson's mother, Sherry Russell, told the Gallipolis Daily Tribune that the correction workers were not cooperative after informing them of their son's death.

"I feel we don't get law enforcement responses," she said. "I keep hearing the same story about negligence in prison and (that) we have to change it. You can build a new prison – and we need a new prison.

"But we have to effectively manage what we have now," added Russell. "My son won't have died for nothing."


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