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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Marshall Mosby’s wife knew something was amiss on Sept. 18, 2021, when she got an automated notice that an upcoming video visit she had scheduled with her husband at the Linn County Correctional Center was canceled.
She called the jail to find out why. The reason: He was dead.
Mosby, who died the previous day, was one of seven inmates who have died in the Linn County Jail’s custody since the beginning of 2020. Some of the other families did receive the news in person or over the phone — but not always without glitches.
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said when someone dies in the jail, the preference is to send someone to speak with the family of the deceased individual in person as soon as possible, or to deliver the news over the phone if the family doesn’t live within driving distance.
Gardner said that after Mosby was pronounced dead, the inmate was officially released from custody — which caused a computer to send the automatic notification. The Sheriff’s Office is working on creating a better automation process so that doesn’t happen again, Gardner said.
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When a loved one dies while incarcerated, a family’s grief can be made worse by the way the news of the death is delivered, and sometimes by the hateful responses on social media from others.
Michele Deitch, a distinguished senior lecturer and director of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs’ Prison and Jail Innovation Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, said she hears from many families from across the country who learned about their loved one’s death in jail in a way that exacerbated their grief.
“You hear so many complaints from families that they learn about their loved ones death through Facebook or the agency leaves a voicemail or they keep calling and don’t get information,” she said. “All of that is completely unacceptable.”
Jail staff need to make a personal phone call to family members — one of Linn County’s preferred methods — as “quickly as possible and as empathetically as possible,” Deitch said.
The children of Chad Lloyd, who died of suicide on May 6, 2020, at the Linn County Jail, found out he was in the hospital instead of the jail because the jail called their mother — Lloyd’s ex-wife, who he had listed as his emergency contact despite having been separated for almost 20 years.
“I was actually kind of shocked to find out I was still his emergency contact, more so than anything,” Cindy Hanson, Chad Lloyd’s ex-wife, said. “To hear what he had done was hard. It happened on our oldest son’s 30th birthday.”
Hanson called her three children, two of whom were in the state and able to go to the hospital with her to see their dad before he died.
Cody Lloyd, one of Chad Lloyd’s children, said he was surprised by how little he heard from the Sheriff’s Office or the jail after his father’s death.
“I feel like the Linn County Jail should have at least said, ‘Hey, sorry for your loss. Sorry that this happened’,” Cody Lloyd said. “We were never really talked to much, even by the police when we went to go see him.”
Jacqueline Bridges’ family was notified immediately when she was sent from the jail to the hospital with heart problems on Oct. 17, 2020. The family was already at the jail waiting for her, having just posted bail so she could be released. Bridges and her husband were arrested that morning.
“We were waiting down in the waiting room for her and my dad to come out, and they brought my dad out … after he was released, and they said that they thought Mom had a heart attack so we drove to Mercy Hospital. We got there as quickly as we could,” Bridges’ daughter, Laura Travagiakis, said.
Unfortunately, when the family arrived at the hospital they were informed Bridges had already died.
"We just couldn’t believe that it was true, and obviously we didn’t want to believe. We wanted to believe that we would get there and they would say that she was going to be OK. But that’s not what happened. It was devastating. I honestly don’t know if there are words to describe what getting that news is like,“ Travagiakis said. “I don’t see an answer about what happened or how it happened. Was she in some kind of distress? How did it go from I was talking to her on the phone, to an hour later she was gone?”
Travagiakis said the loss of her mother was worsened by the unusual timing and the fact she was an inmate whose death in custody would be made public.
“My heart breaks for every other person that has to go through this. … I can imagine some of what they’re going through simply because we’re unfortunately at the same place,” Travagiakis said.
“It’s really disappointing to see some of the comments that people make (on social media) and some of their reactions to what is going on,” she said. “It’s been difficult to read. It’s been difficult to see those things, but we know who my mother was, and who she still is in our hearts. That will never change because of what happened.”
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