Three days before a Pennsylvania woman died by hanging in her cell at the Atlantic County Jail, an inmate from Ocean City was sent to the hospital after he was found hanging, but alive, in his cell, Deputy Warden Geraldine Cohen said Friday.
Richard Michael Long Jr., 22, was so badly injured that he was administered the last rites, although he survived, his mother said.
Elnora Haring claims her son appeared to have been “beaten within an inch of his life” and questioned why he would try to commit suicide when he needed to make only $500 bail — allegations similar to those made by the mother of Laura Kaniper, who was found hanged in her cell on Wednesday.
Cohen, meanwhile, described the hangings as a common occurrence in correctional facilities, part of the three to five suicide attempts per week at the Atlantic County Jail “during the high season” for inmates.
Long was sent to the Mays Landing facility on June 11 after being arrested in Ocean City on an outstanding warrant for simple assault out of Egg Harbor Township.
Cohen said Long was found hanging in his cell at about 3:15 p.m. Sunday. He was taken to Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, where he was in a medically induced coma for about three days before regaining consciousness.
Haring, of the Pomona section of Galloway Township, said Long’s right eye was swollen shut, his orbital bones were smashed and he had a mark on his neck that she doesn’t believe would have come from hanging injuries from a sheet.
Long’s uncle, Scott Long, questioned why, if his nephew was injured and had a broken eye socket, he wasn’t taken to a medical unit — and how he would have been able to hang himself.
“They told me he jumped off a sink with a sheet around his neck that wasn’t even noosed,” Scott Long said.
Pointing to cell phone photos she took of her son in the hospital, Haring said that “the line across the neck, to me it looks like someone holding him down with a nightstick, right here” — she held her hand against her own neck — “along the carotid artery. ... You tell me that was made by a sheet? No way! It just didn’t look right to me from the beginning.”
Cohen said she couldn’t comment on whether Long was involved in any fights or altercations while in custody. She added that the jail was reviewing everything that happened with Long after he arrived at the jail and that no information could be released pending the investigation.
She also added that prisoners are routinely screened for suicidal tendencies.
On Wednesday, 24-year-old Laura Kaniper, of Dunmore, Pa., was found hanged in her cell in the jail’s medical unit. She was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
Kaniper’s mother, Jodie Kaniper, said Thursday that her daughter called her to say she was being beaten by inmates as guards watched.
Warden Joseph Bondiskey, who was not available Friday to comment about Long, said Thursday that “there is no evidence to substantiate that there was any foul play, or any beating by inmates, or that inmates in the area laid any aggressive hand on (Kaniper). There was no aggressive behavior towards her from the staff, whether (officers) or civilians.”
Bondiskey also said Kaniper was medically cleared before she arrived at the jail Sunday “due to injuries received prior to incarceration.” Kaniper had been charged with aggravated assault by Atlantic City police and was involved in a foot chase, police said.
There was no further information Friday about Kaniper’s autopsy.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said that hanging attempts in jails “are not something isolated to Atlantic County. It happens all over the country. It is unfortunate. ... We do know we have to be diligent and we are, for the most part, very successful in preventing them.”
As to the allegations by Long’s family: “If these people feel this has occurred, they have every right to go to the Prosecutor’s Office or the (state) Attorney General’s office,” Levinson said. “Justice will be served. We’re not trying to cover up or protect anyone.”
Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said in a statement that “The jail has a protocol. We are notified of any major incident that occurs there. We investigate those within the jurisdiction of our Major Crimes Unit, which includes death. In the absence of death, the Atlantic County Justice Facility has its own investigations unit, (composed) of sworn personnel. My office can always supercede when our review of the case calls for it.”
A nursing supervisor at Shore Memorial said there was no information available about Long’s status. Haring said Long has come out of his coma and was moved from the ICU to the telemetry unit on Friday morning.
“It was touch and go,” Haring said. “His blood pressure was all over the place and we didn’t think he’d make it.”
Long was awake and talking, she said, but was suffering from memory loss and remembered nothing beyond a fishing trip from several weeks ago.
“He didn’t know he was in custody,” she said. “He said, ‘Why can’t you just sign me out so I can sleep on the couch? I just want to go home.’”
Haring added that as of late Thursday afternoon, a corrections officer had been posted outside his room.
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