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'We need answers': Louisville family wants change at Metro Corrections after family member died in custody

The jail has faced mounting criticism after a series of incarcerated people's deaths since November 2021. Barry Williams Sr.'s death is the latest.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The family of a man who died while in custody at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) last month said they will continue to push for change Thursday.

Barry Williams Sr. was the eighth and most recent incarcerated person to die in custody since November 2021. LMDC said he overdosed on March 28.

Williams family said they were in disbelief when they heard he died, especially after having several powerful conversations about the new path he planned to take if he got out.

"He was just catching a lot of hope to overturn the things he had been going through,” his son, Quran Williams, said.

At the time of his death, Metro Corrections stated in an email that Williams was being held in jail after being convicted in February of domestic violence, assault, burglary and being a persistent felon. He had been sentenced to 24 years in prison.

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The family said Williams had a vision and hope of appealing the charges and getting exonerated.

That's why his son and Lanette Cooper, pastor of Temple of Revelation in Louisville's West End, said it's hard to believe he died of an overdose.

"Sunday, he calls everybody, 'I love you, I'm fina go back to work, get my meds go back to work and then I'll see you at court 10 o'clock Monday morning,” Cooper recalled.

But, that never happened. Now, she said the family is left with a hole that can't be filled.

"He always put family first. He loved his wife,” Cooper said. “His wife loved him. His kids loved him."

On the day of Williams' death, LMDC put out a number of changes aimed to keep inmates safe, including checking third-party mail and using K9s and body scanners. The jail has faced mounting criticism as eight total incarcerated people have died since November.

"We want justice,” Cooper said. “We need answers, and not just for him. What about the other seven who never got answers?"

RELATED: 'Disgusted': LMDC Director responds to video of officers allegedly dragging man in custody through 'urine'

Cooper said former Jail Director Dwayne Clark's resignation might be a signal of change, but she said changing leadership won't make a huge difference, it'll take systemic change.

"It will never stop until you get to the root of the problem,” Cooper said.

In a statement, LMDC spokesperson Tracy Dotson said: 

"Leadership isn't the only thing we expect to be changing at LMDC. Positive and progressive changes towards a more comprehensive care and supervision of our detainees as well as more care and attention to our employees wellbeing are issues the FOP feel are very important to the newly appointed Chief of LMDC. We are also cooperating with, and hopeful for, the independent investigation being conducted by Metro Council on past and current practices of LMDC, to bring positive actions and changes into our standard practices.”

Cooper said she'll remember Williams as the man he was and who he was fighting to become.

"I want to show him that I'm walking with you the last mile and that we're doing this together," Cooper said.

The family is asking for donations for Williams’ funeral expenses. Cooper said people can donate to Spring Valley Funeral Home.

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