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Incarcerated woman found unresponsive at Metro Corrections dies at hospital

The woman was found unresponsive in the Louisville Metro Corrections housing unit Friday morning, according to a release from officials.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A 34-year-old woman incarcerated at Louisville Metro Corrections died Friday morning, according to a release from the facility.

Jefferson County Coroner's Office identified the woman as Rickitta Smith.

Smith was found unresponsive in the housing unit around 5 a.m., according to Metro Corrections Assistant Director Steve Durham. Durham said officers immediately tried lifesaving attempts while summoning on-site medical personnel.

Metro Emergency Medical Services arrived and took Smith to University Hospital where the person was pronounced dead around 5:30 a.m.

Durham said Smith was booked into Metro Corrections Dec. 1 on misdemeanor and felony drug charges. 

A standard procedure internal investigation headed by the Metro Corrections Professional Standards Unit will start according to Metro Corrections (LMDC) Director Dwayne Clark.

This was the second person to die at the correctional facility this week. On Nov. 29, a 59-year-old man was found unresponsive in the housing unit and was taken to the hospital where he later died. The man's name and cause of death have not been released.

On Friday, LMDC's Union gave its perspective.

"To have two in one week is highly unusual," Corrections FOP President Daniel Johnson said.

We asked Johnson if either of these incidents connect to an officer shortage that's only getting worse.

"I can't say for certain if our short staffing had any play or would have been able to make a different outcome in the two instances, but I do know it's not helping anything by being so short staffed -- and having those issues on top," Johnson said.

Johnson painted the picture of how rough it is inside the jail right now: As of Friday, he tells WHAS 11 there are 142 officer vacancies, and there have been 10 inmate overdoses just in the last month -- seemingly putting a bigger cut of responsibility on the shoulders of each corrections officer. 

For more perspective, we spoke with officer Ivan Sample, who was also working security at Jefferson Mall on Friday night. He's been at LMDC for almost five years, and has seen it all.

"I dealt with four overdoses, and one hanging," Sample said, just describing his last couple weeks.

In fact, Sample's being recognized for saving multiple inmates from themselves. In recent days, he says he's helped some survive overdoses -- using CPR and Naloxone -- and stopped others from self harm.

"I wanted to make sure those folks lived, so they can see their family or their family can see them," Sample said.

Then, the reality hits: That he can only do so much.

"We save some, some we can't. It's very depressing to me," Sample said.

While we don't yet know the causes of these deaths, LMDC union leaders like Johnson continue to push for the city to fix the staffing issues we do know about, by increasing pay and bringing new leadership, to best avoid tragedies down the line.

"It's just a matter of time before we're not going to have the bodies to respond," Johnson said.

WHAS 11 is waiting on autopsy reports to confirm how these inmates died. Once we get them, this story will be updated.

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