Louisville’s Jail Director Is Stepping Down As Metro Correction’s Death Toll Rises

Mar 18, 2022 at 4:47 pm
The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections has seen seven deaths since November.
The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections has seen seven deaths since November. Photo by Carolyn Brown

Embattled Metro Corrections Director Dwayne Clark has announced his retirement as the head of Louisville’s jail, which has been surrounded by controversy due to seven inmates dying in custody since November. The jail has also faced ongoing pandemic-fueled staffing shortages. 

On Friday, the mayor’s office said that Clark, who took the director job in 2019, gave notification that he will be stepping down next month, and that a successor will be named before his departure.

Last September, Clark received a vote of no-confidence from members of the union representing Metro Corrections employees. On Feb. 17, Metro Council also passed a resolution expressing no-confidence in Clark. 

Mayor Greg Fischer, the only person with the authority to fire the jail’s director, has publicly backed Clark, calling the Council vote an “unnecessary distraction.” 

In a statement on Friday, Fischer said that Clark faced unprecedented challenges during his tenure.

“When Dwayne agreed to take on this critical job in 2019, the city and nation were yet to learn about the impending global pandemic that would lead to historic shocks and strains to jails across the nation,” the mayor said. “Dwayne has led his team through this once-in-a-generation pandemic, which brought health and safety challenges and historic vacancies to the public safety sector.”

Clark joined Louisville Metro Corrections in 2004 as deputy director, after almost 25 years working for the state Department of  Corrections in Illinois. Clark also worked as the jail’s chief of staff from 2009 through February 2019.

In a statement on Friday, Clark said, “Through 42 years as a corrections professional my greatest honor has been to serve the people of Louisville and to work hand-in-hand with the dedicated employees of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections.”

After three deaths at the jail in less than a week — between Nov. 29 and Dec. 4 — the ACLU of Kentucky, along with other organizations such as the The 490 Project and The Bail Project-Louisville sent a Dec. 6 letter calling for bail reform to Fischer, Clark, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine, County Attorney Mike O’Connell and Jefferson District Court Judges Angela Bisig and Annette Karem.

The beginning of the letter read: “Three people have died in Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) custody in just the past week, shining a violent light on the abhorrent conditions in the city’s jails. The conditions are dire and untenable for both incarcerated people and corrections officers. These conditions are fueled by overcrowding created by a broken cash bail system and the failed war on drugs.”

The seventh jail death since November happened on Saturday, March 12 after Corrections staff found an unresponsive inmate. All seven cases are currently being investigated by LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit, and at least one case is being investigated by the FBI. At least three of the deaths have been ruled suicides.

Last month, LEO reported that, according to Pretrial Services History Reports, all but one of the inmates who died in LMDC custody between Nov. 29 and Feb. 6, were recommended for pre-trial release.

In a February press release following the sixth jail death, Clark said he had no plans to step down at that time.

“I have no intention of resigning from my position leading our jail,” Clark wrote in a statement in early February. “My intention is to keep pushing forward and building upon the good work we’ve done over the past few months.”

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