ROANOKE – A crowd gathered with signs in hand Tuesday night for a second protest against recent inmate jail deaths in Roanoke City jail, hoping to gain the attention of the Roanoke City sheriff on election night.
Natasha Harper, the stepmother of 22-year-old Clifton Antonio Harper, who committed suicide in the jail on Dec. 8, 2015 is one of the organizers of the protest. Harper hung himself inside the jail. Now, his mother is working alongside the families of five other inmates who also committed suicide while in the same jail since 2015. Harper says that number is too high.
"We are all waiting on answers," Harper said. "All of us have received unanswered phone calls. We haven't received calls back. Questions have gone unanswered. There is always an excuse."
Harper told 10 News the deaths have all happened while Tim Allen was sheriff of the jail. She said the protestors hope to send a message on election night that no matter who wins, the issue or their concerns won't go away.
"My goal at the end of this no matter who wins the election, whoever wins; no more jail deaths will continue on. It's about bringing awareness and changing procedures and protocols," Harper said.
Harper said suicide is the leading cause of death in jails and prisons. She wants more mental health resources to be available to inmates who are currently serving time.