Report: Durham jail staff didn’t follow protocol the night teen died

Uniece Fennell (Durham Police Department)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has completed an investigation into the death of Uniece Fennell, 17, who died inside the Durham County jail.

The investigation shows staff at the jail did not follow state protocol the night Fennel committed suicide, however the report does not say whether the jail is at fault in Fennell’s death.

Now, new polices are coming to make sure the jail is following state regulations in hopes of preventing another suicide.

On March 23, documents show. Fennell was found dead in her jail cell at 2:48 a.m.

State law requires officers to check on inmates twice every hour.

However, a state investigation shows officers had not checked on Fennell since 2 a.m.

Rachelle Shaw has been calling for changes at the jail.

“I really think they should have just shown more concern. That’s all it took,” said Shaw.

She says shortly before Fennell’s death, she told an inmate she wanted to hurt herself.

According to investigators, that inmate warned a guard, but the investigation discovered officers did not contact medical staff.

Col. Anthony Prignano, the director of the jail, says changes are coming.

Any threat of self-harm will be immediately referred to the mental health staff.

Also, now supervisors will have access to when officers complete rounds in real-time. If a round is not performed, the staff must give a reason why.

The sheriff’s office did discipline at least one officer on duty that night but did not go into details as to what that discipline entails.

Fennell’s family and friends are happy changes are coming.

The jail’s staff say they are working hard to ensure nothing like this happens again.

Members of the Inside-Outside Alliance planned to protest outside the jail Friday night, saying the sheriff’s office isn’t doing enough.

“We need for this jail to be held accountable to the elected officials of Durham County,” said Greg Williams. “I don’t know about your job, but on my job if somebody dies on my watch I’m definitely getting fired.”

Jail officials have until July 29 to respond to the state’s investigation.

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