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Family lawsuit says jailer left inmate hanging from bedsheet

GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa — A central Iowa county is paying $500,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleges a man who died after tying a bedsheet around his neck was left hanging for 13 minutes while a jailer who discovered what happened stood outside.

The lawsuit filed against Grundy County by relatives of Jared Slinker said any chance for lifesaving efforts was delayed because the county staffed just one employee to work as both communications dispatcher and jail supervisor. The lawsuit filed after the January 2016 incident said safety rules prohibited the employee from entering Slinker’s cell until another employee arrived.

Slinker was “extremely gifted, had a great relationship with his kids, but had his demons and was challenged,” his father, Earl Slinker, told The Des Moines Register .

The 26-year-old had told jail staff he was delusional and a drug user when he was booked into jail on a contempt-of-court charge two days before his death, according to the lawsuit. Family members said they and Slinker’s doctor told jail staff about his suicidal behavior, but he was booked into jail as a general inmate — no suicide watch.

Grundy County Sheriff Rick Penning told the newspaper that no major changes have been made since Jared Slinker’s death to the jail’s staffing or intake policies.

State law lets Iowa jails operate with a single jail supervisor who doubles as a dispatcher. But civil and workers’ rights advocates have said such staffing can make it difficult to protect human life and exposes counties to legal liabilities.

“It’s not an open-and-shut case,” the sheriff said. “We only average two inmates a day. It would be cost-prohibitive to have a jail staff and a dispatch staff.”

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