Investigation finds proper procedures followed by Aroostook County Jail staff in inmate death

Posted Sept. 11, 2013, at 4:19 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Officials with the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that an investigation into the suicide of a 31-year-old inmate at the jail last month has been completed, and the findings have concluded that staff followed proper protocol and procedures.

Kirk Sharp hanged himself by a bedsheet while alone in his locked cell and was found by corrections officers at approximately 1:30 a.m. Aug. 26, at the Aroostook County Jail.

Officers worked to revive him and an ambulance was called, but Sharp died at Houlton Regional Hospital.

Darrell Crandall, chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, said Wednesday afternoon that the state medical examiner’s office and investigators with the Maine State Police had ruled the cause of death as hanging, and the manner of death as suicide.

The sheriff’s office began working with the Maine Department of Corrections to conduct an internal review of jail procedures after Sharp’s death, which Crandall said was standard practice in such situations.

Crandall added Wednesday that the MDOC completed its required review of jail employees’ actions before and after Sharp’s death, as well as an inquiry into jail training records. He said that the review found that staff at the jail had completed inmate intake forms properly and that welfare checks on Sharp met or exceeded jail standards.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said that Sharp was arrested on Aug. 22 by state police on a domestic violence assault charge. His last known address was in the Mars Hill and Castle Hill area.

Sharp was convicted of domestic violence assault twice in November 2009 and for assault in October 2011. He spent more than five months in jail and paid fines to resolve those charges. He also was indicted by an Aroostook County grand jury for domestic violence assault in March 2011.

Crandall said Wednesday that the sheriff’s office asked that the state police conduct the investigation into the manner and cause of death because the death occurred inside the jail, and because the department believed that it was vital for the public to see that both an independent investigation of the death and of relevant jail procedures was undertaken.

“These situations are difficult for everyone involved — the family of the deceased, the staff and other inmates,” he said Wednesday. “While suicides are extremely rare at the Aroostook County Jail, suicide attempts and threats are not uncommon. When these issues arise, jail staff utilizes outside resources to have inmates evaluated for treatment.”

Crandall said that the sheriff’s office commended its staff for “doing all they could under difficult circumstances.”

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