Dozens protest in front of Roanoke Jail over inmate deaths

Seven people have died in the jail in recent years

ROANOKE, Va. – Dozens of people protested against inmate deaths tonight in front of the Roanoke City jail. This isn't the first time the group has done it, and they say another death in recent weeks proves the system is still broken.

Tuesday night, the call for action was simple - stop jail deaths. A few dozen people with the Roanoke Peoples' Power Network stood in front of the Roanoke City jail making a whole lot of noise.

"We're just trying to spread awareness that the jail has some issues that need changing and a lot of people are dying in here," Leroy Taylor said.

Seven people have died in the jail in recent years. Kevin Riley was there on his own and not with the group, advocating for family friend Jessica Carter, who died behind bars in 2015 from a non-overdose medical emergency.

 "The treatment of the inmates, specifically when it comes to mental health issues, medical treatment, it extends to the medical staff also, some of them, in my opinion, are just sort of jaded," Riley said.

Riley himself has spent time inside the jail and said jails need to exist, but not like this. He claims a bad attitude leeching down from the Sheriff all the way through the ranks is a major contributor to the problem.

"You never see the police in there it's just the sheriff's deputies and I'm not saying that all of them are bad but the stronger personalities tend to set the tone, I've seen people just totally mistreated," Riley said.

The Roanoke City Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, said it respects people's right to protest and that the jail continues to be sensitive to the family members and friends of the individuals impacted by these events.

The group says simple things like a better intake process could help make a difference.

"Instead of just throwing in them, a few people were only here for a few days before they committed suicide, what's going on?" Taylor said.

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