Despite recent deaths, Hudson County jail director says situation is improving

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Hudson County Jail Director Ron Edwards said despite recent tragedies at the local jail, including three deaths this month, administrative steps are being taken to improve the situation. 

Edwards addressed the Board of Chosen Freeholders at a special meeting this afternoon, in light of another suicide at the jail on Friday, marking the fifth death inside the facility since June.

The director said that corrections officers and other staff at the county corrections and rehabilitation center have been trained in first aid tactics such as CPR and an audit is underway to determine how inmates with medical conditions can be better served.

“The audit will identify chronic care follow up, medication history, physician’s name, location of physician/psychologist, surgeries, medications taken, location of pharmacy,” Edwards said, adding that four surveillance cameras have been added in “acute areas” such as the women’s section of the prison and the men’s infirmary.

Additionally, four staff members have been placed on administrative leave as the deaths at the jail are actively investigated and fully transparent doors are being installed on all medical infirmary cells, according to Edwards.

Jersey City Freeholder Bill O’Dea (D-2) commended Edwards and the rest of the county staff who played a proactive role in improving operations at the jail, noting that the freeholders suggested adding more surveillance cameras just last week.

“A lot has been done. There were some serious, serious problems … the [autopsy] report revealed some very serious issues but, the fact that we collectively, the executive and legislative branch[es], in make some very … concrete steps to address some issues that were raised from the first days we found out two incidents I think are very important.”

The vice chair of the freeholder board, O’Dea spoke extensively on the five recent deaths at the county jail during an appearance on Hudson County Review Live last week.

Rolanda Meza Espinoza, an immigrant detainee, Jeniffer Towle, Cynthia Acosta, Dominick Ramunni and Dr. James Kaufmann have all perished inside the facility since June.

After the public hearing, the freeholders adjourned to closed session, though no formal action was scheduled to be taken.

The majority of the hearing, which was streamed on our Facebook page, can be seen below:

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