A 24-year-old inmate was found unresponsive at a Bexar County, Texas, jail Thursday morning. The prisoner, Leon Julius Casey, had been booked for possessing less than a gram of a controlled substance.
Casey's death is the most recent in a string of recent fatalities at the Bexar County Jail. Janice Dotson-Stephens, 61, died in December of last year after being held there for 5 months on $300 bond following her arrest for misdemeanor criminal trespassing. She lost 136 pounds while in custody.
Jack Michael Ule, 63, died in April at the same facility. Like Dotson-Stephens, he was booked on a misdemeanor trespassing charge; like Dotson-Stephens, he had been diagnosed with a mental illness. Ule was also homeless, and would have likely been released had he been able to pay a $50 fee toward bond.
"In my opinion, [Ule] should not have been in jail," Sheriff Javier Salazar told the local ABC affiliate. "The Adult Detention Center should not be used to house the mentally ill or those who simply cannot afford to pay their way out."
Fatalities in U.S. prisons came to the forefront of mainstream conversation with the death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old woman who was stopped by a police officer over a routine traffic violation. She was found dead in a Waller County, Texas jail.
Bland's end sparked national outrage, particularly around the overincarceration of petty crimes. At least 4,980 prisoners died in 2014, the latest year for which we have data. That was up 3 percent from 2013. The U.S. has experienced a 500 percent increase in its prison and jail population over the last 40 years.
The Bexar County Sheriff's Office says it will conduct an investigation into Casey's death.