Sheriff addresses jail safety after second inmate dies in less than a year

LENOIR COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – The sheriff in one eastern North Carolina County is addressing safety concerns after the second inmate in less than a year died at the county jail.

Lenoir County Sheriff Jackie Rogers gave a tour of the Lenoir County Jail facilities on Tuesday to members of the media after Stephanie Osowski died on Saturday. The SBI is still investigating what caused the inmate’s death.

Sheriff Rogers pointed out that Lenoir County has three jails, one of which was built in the 1930′s and is no longer in use.

Rogers said the jail that was built in 1982 is a pod-style jail that houses both men and women in separate pods, and the newest jail that was built in 2012 houses only men.

Rogers said both of the open facilities are inspected two to three times a year by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

A man who was incarcerated there died last March when he hanged himself.

“We work extremely hard to prevent our inmates from getting injured or dying in our facility,” said Rogers. “After the inmate death last year, we removed all the blankets and sheets and replaced them with a sleeping bag material in an effort to limit inmate injuries.”

Rogers also said he believes drugs played a role in the most recent death.

“From 2015 to 2022, jail inmate deaths in North Carolina more than doubled,” Rogers said. “I believe the opioid crisis contributed significantly to this issue and I firmly believe this will be a pivotal factor in our most recent incident.”