Cobb Sheriff’s office reports third detainee death this month

Sign for the Cobb County Adult Detention Center facilityPhoto: Cobb County Courier/Larry Felton Johnson, CC BY 4.0

The Cobb County Sheriff’s office issued the following public information release this afternoon, reporting that Nicole Smith, who was in the custody of the Cobb County Adult Detention Center died in the hospital this morning:

The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office announces that Nicole Smith of Atlanta, a detainee in the Adult Detention Center, died in the hospital at 7:54 a.m. today. 

Ms. Smith was on active suicide watch and attempted to take her own life during the mandatory round-the-clock welfare checks conducted by Sheriff’s personnel every 15 minutes. When she was found, personnel commenced life-saving procedures, and she was transported to a local hospital, where she was later pronounced. Ms. Smith was receiving professional mental health support under a program specializing in suicide prevention.

The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal investigation into today’s death and, per protocol, has requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigations conduct an external investigation. 

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“Unfortunately, our detention center––and thousands of detention centers across the country––have become de facto mental health hospitals,” said Sheriff Owens. “I will be convening local leaders, including those who just toured the facility, to help identify solutions and hopefully find treatment options outside of incarceration.”

May is Mental Health Awareness month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 20 adults experience serious mental illness each year, and 37% of adults incarcerated in the state and federal prison system have a diagnosed mental illness. Studies show the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis across the board. 

​​In October 2021, Sheriff Owens announced a new detainee mental health program with 24/7 care, making Cobb the first in the state to provide round-the-clock service to detainees. The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office will soon roll out new technology that tracks detainees’ vitals and enables staff to monitor their health in real-time.

A WSB-TV news crew and community leaders from the Cobb SCLC and the Cobb Coalition for Public Safety toured the Adult Detention Center on May 18. Under Sheriff Owens’ leadership, public officials and media have routinely been invited on the premises to receive first-hand knowledge of the ADC operations. 

This is the third inmate death so far this month.

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1 Comment on "Cobb Sheriff’s office reports third detainee death this month"

  1. L. I. Moore | May 19, 2022 at 1:36 pm | Reply

    How does someone on suicide watch successfully commit suicide? What possible means of suicide would they have? And staff checks every 15 minutes?? That’s plenty of time for someone to commit suicide in between checks. Shouldn’t suicide watch mean CONSTANT observation?
    Something seems terribly wrong at this facility.

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