Jefferson County family explains what's behind jail lawsuit

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DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) The family of a Jefferson County man who was found hanged in his cell in January is explaining why they decided to take legal action against the county.

Donna Free is the widow of Jeffrey Free, the man who took his own life while being held at the medical unit in the Jefferson County Jail.

Free said her number one reason for filing a lawsuit is to prevent another suicide from happening inside the jail again.

"Something's going on that shouldn't be going on (in the jail). Somebody is not monitoring somebody," Free said.

Free and her sister, Brenda Williamson, explain that jail officers were given specific instructions on how to care for Jeffrey when he was admitted to the jail. Williamson is a Registered Nurse who spent several years caring for her brother's medical needs. She supplied the staff with paperwork from several of Free's doctors explaining his medical needs and why he needed to be under constant supervision.

"I told them he needed very close monitoring at the jail, and that's when they told me they would put him in the medical unit, and that he would be supervised," Williamson said.

Williamson and Free said Jeffrey hanged himself using an extension cord from his CPAP machine, a cord Williamson said she would have never allowed her brother to have in his room with him.

The lawsuit also maintains that Jeffrey Free wasn't found for about two hours.

"If you're closely monitored, two hours is a long time," Williamson said.

Free and Williamson said they have tried to get answers about what happened from Sheriff Bud McCoig and the TBI, but have so far been unsuccessful.

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