Jackson County faces wrongful death suit over jail suicide

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the Jackson County Jail by the family of a man who committed suicide while in custody in 2011.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in Medford's U.S. District Court, alleges Jackson County sheriff's deputies knew Benjamin Michael Fager was suicidal. However, the complaint continues, they failed to adequately monitor or protect Fager, 33, while he was in custody after his November 2010 arrest on a single charge of first-degree sex abuse.

"Beause of this indifference, a very despondent Benjamin Fager, a decorated military hero who had served his country in a time of war, hung himself in the Jackson County Jail during the evening of January 9, 2011. He died on January 14, 2011, from anoxic brain injury, due to asphixiation, due to the hanging," the court document alleges.

The court filing alleges Fager had expressed suicide intentions directly to law enforcement officers, in letters to his loved ones (which were read by law enforcement officers) and to his attorney, "who had passed on sucide warnings to those responsible for the mental health of prisoners at the jail."

State police directives require the jail to "provide medical assistance whenever an inmate demonstrates, or is reported to be at risk of self-destructive behavior," court documents say.

Calls from the Mail Tribune to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters were not returned Thursday. The department's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson said neither the sheriff's office nor the county counsel "have been advised or served with a lawsuit," at this time.

Carlson declined to answer more general questions regarding the jail policies' and suicidal inmates.

Kelly L. Anderson, the attorney for Brandy Fager, personal representative of Benjamin Fager, also declined to comment on the case.

— Sanne Specht

Read more in the Mail Tribune on Friday.

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