NewsCovering Colorado


El Paso County family calling for change after inmate death at county jail

Inmate death lawsuit
Posted at 8:36 PM, Jul 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-05 18:17:04-04

EL PASO COUNTY — While most are celebrating the Fourth of July, one family protested in front of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office over the death of their loved one.

On June 9, 2022, 18-year-old Dezaree Archuleta was found unresponsive and hanging in her cell at the El Paso County Jail, according to the sheriff's office. Archuleta was one of nine inmates who died in custody at the jail in 2022.

More than a year after her death, Archuleta's family said they are filing a lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office and Wellpath, the company contracted by the jail to provide medical care to inmates. Archuleta's mother said her daughter struggled with mental health issues and was put on suicide watch when she first got to the jail.

"We have records of it, like, of her asking for help every day almost, minus three days, and them ignoring her," said Shelly Romero, Archuleta's mother. "I mean, there's so much neglect in just what we know. Her camera footage, I guess, was deleted. So we got just the bare minimum of like when they went to resuscitate her, she was passed. She was cold when they found her in her cell."

The Colorado Springs People's Coalition (CSPC) organized the protest to also remember Cassandra Ramirez and Daniel Murray, two inmates who died within 10 hours of each other at the jail on July 3 and July 4 in 2022.

"They have faces. They have families, like, you know, a lot of them weren't even supposed to be in there for longer than a couple of months. And you know, it's just sad," said Brandon Rincon with CSPC.

Those protesting said they are calling for immediate change at the jail. They are demanding the sheriff's office end its contract with Wellpath and replace it with a community-based non-profit healthcare model. CSPS and family members are also demanding the creation of an independent civilian oversight board for community control of the sheriff's office. Other requests include cash bail reform for houseless and at-risk individuals, an independent investigation into the nine deaths at the jail, and the immediate release of medical and jail records to the families of deceased inmates.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office sent New5 the following statement regarding the protest.

“The El Paso County Sheriff's Office always supports the peaceful exercise of an individual’s constitutionally guaranteed right to protest. Due to pending litigation and active investigations, and per policy, we cannot provide further comment at this time," said EPSO Spokesperson Cassandra Sebastian.

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