Thursday, April 12, 2012

Recent Inmate Deaths in Jail

In Lake County, Illinois, two inmates in the jail have died in the past few months.  The first, Lyvita Gomes, a 52 year old Indian citizen, died in a hospital in January following a hunger strike that lasted 15 days.  The other person, 51 year old Eugene Gruber, died March 3rd in a rehab facility after he allegedly suffered spinal injuries following a stay at the Lake County Jail.

Gomes’ autopsy report stated that she died from malnutrition and did not show any indications of having suffered from trauma of any kind.  After beginning her hunger strike in December 2011 a few days after she was arrested, Gomes was supervised in the jail’s medical unit for about a week before she was transferred to the hospital, where she died four days later.

Video of Eugene Gruber while in the jail

The other inmate who died recently that was tied to the Lake County Jail was Eugene Gruber – a former inmate who became paralyzed after his time at the jail in October.  He was arrested by deputies on October 31st for trespassing and disorderly conduct.  According to the state’s attorney’s report, Gruber was then pepper sprayed while jail staff tried to change his clothes.  After these altercations, he began complaining that he was not able to move his legs and wasn’t transferred to a hospital until the next day when he was found to be unresponsive.

At the hospital, Gruber was evaluated by doctors and found to have a broken neck.  Subsequently, he had two surgeries and was in rehab at the time when he died.  In between the time that he was released and the time that he died, prosecutors in Lake County determined that there were no criminal charges that should be filed against any of the staff members involved in the incident.  Even with this decision made, the appointment of a special prosecutor is being requested to decide on final charges (if any).  

Even though the death was ruled a “homicide,” that does not mean that there is anything illegal about it.  Homicide is defined as a death that results from the behavior of another person, and does not imply that anything was done wrong by correctional staff.

After watching the video, it doesn’t appear that the correctional staff did anything that they should not have done when dealing with Eugene Gruber.  Other than making the decision to send him to the hospital sooner, I’m not sure that there was too much else that could have been done.  If his behavior was, in fact, as the reports state, then I believe that pepper spraying the individual and using some physical contact to gain control of him was legitimate on the part of the staff.  

In light of the recent deaths in his jail, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran stated that he planned to spend a week in the jail to show his confidence in the correctional staff.  This would be the second time that he has done this, as he also spent a week in jail after being elected to the sheriff’s office in 2008.  However, since he announced these plans, he has since cancelled them.



  1. Anytime a relatively younger (under 60 years old) adult dies, it is unfortunate. I guess I would like to have additional information before I would cast any kind of judgment on the correctional institution. This blog post does not give us any of the specifics as to the charges filed against either inmate. I would not be at all surprised if alcohol or an illicit drug played a very major role in the death of Eugene Gruber. After watching the surveillance footage of his booking process, I noticed no brutality inflicted to the man. Additionally, he did seem to resist officers and was subdued in a very minor manor. It should be no surprise to any of us that if you resist and officer, they are eventually going to make you comply, which was seen here. Again, I find it unfortunate he died while in custody, but my opinion is that it could have happened anywhere. It was also clear that prison staff and nurses acted quickly when a problem was discovered.
    In the event of Lyvita Gomes death, I have very little sympathy. She went into a hunger strike and died. We all know that we need food and water for our body to operate. She got what she wanted and I don't think we need to force her to do anything she doesn't want to do unless in it a compliance issues. I don't view a hunger strike as a compliance issue. If she was deemed to be mentally unstable, then I think the correctional institution needs to intervene.

  2. I totally agree with Erik. He makes very good points about resisting the officers and about Lyvita's death, as well. She made her own choice not to eat, so it was her fault that she passed away. It is very sad that Eugene passed away, but again, he made the choice to resist the officers. They had to do their job and control him. It's just too bad that they didn't realize more quickly that he needed hospitalized.

  3. Deaths per day is a sky high number; in saying this, deaths happen day in and day out and they will happen within correctional facilities, especially with the amounts of people residing in them. People need to understand this and not place blame on the correctional facility staff or doctors. It is a sad thing what happened to these individuals, but like the others stated, Lyvita's death clearly resulted from her own personal activities. As for Eugene I do not believe anything was intentional or unlawful and the blame should not be placed on corrections.

  4. Things like this always seem to happen, and immediately the public wants to blame the Criminal Justice System. These acquisitions come from uneducated people who do not know what they are talking about. In both these cases the correctional facility did nothing wrong. If someone wants to starve themselves thats their own fault. You can't force someone to eat. Also, with Eugene's case nothing on the video cameras showed any sort of abuse taking place, and I do not believe anything was intentional. It is sad to hear about deaths, but we should not always jump to the conclusion that any part of the criminal justice system is to blame.