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Mother of Franklin County inmate who overdosed while in custody wants answers, accountability 1 year later

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office sent its investigation to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office in December seeking an 18-count indictment on a female inmate.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio — It’s been a long road. One that Reatha Freeman has traveled the last 366 days.

“It’s been very painful,” she said. “Very hurtful.”

Freeman stands outside the Jackson Pike Jail, the Franklin County Correction Center where her 29-year-old daughter, Fredreca Ford, took her last breath.

“She should not have to [have] been exposed to fentanyl while she was incarcerated,” she said.

Ford, who struggled with addiction, had violated her parole. 10TV obtained new surveillance video from June 25, 2021 that shows Ford being processed at Jackson Pike intake. A short time later, she was dead.

Incarcerated or not, Freeman says a jail should be a safe space.

“When they come up under the umbrella of a place where they are supposed to be safe…that’s what should be done,” Freeman said.

In November, the Franklin County Coroner’s office ruled Ford’s death an overdose from fentanyl and fluorofentanyl. Ford was the only inmate who died, but the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says a few other inmates who had shared a cell with Ford had to be revived with Narcan.

“Whoever the intake officers were on the young lady that allegedly brought those drugs in, they didn’t do their job,” Freeman said.

Late last year, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said the substance found did not come from Ford and that it had reason to believe another female smuggled drugs into the jail. 10TV has learned in late December, the sheriff’s office handed its investigation to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, seeking an 18-count indictment against that inmate. Almost seven months later no charges have been filed.

The prosecutor’s office says it cannot comment because it is a matter under internal review.

“There’s drugs still in there,” Freeman said of Jackson Pike. “There’s still drug overdoses in there, now.”

Contraband in the Franklin County jails continues to be seen. From 2018 to 2021 the sheriff’s office says four inmates have died from overdose. In 2021, 65 inmates were given Narcan. Already in 2022, 10 inmates have been given Narcan.

“This place is known as the trap house,” Freeman said. “You can get in jail what you get on the street.”

The sheriff’s office says measures are in place to limit contraband like providing inmates with clothes so no one can sneak contraband in the hems of personal items, and providing inmates with photocopies of personal mail so the envelope and paper can’t be soaked in a substance.

In the last year, the sheriff’s office also purchased and trained two drug-sniffing canines for exclusive use inside corrections centers.

“At the end of the day, my daughter lost her life to shine light on Jackson Pike,” Freeman said.

A long road traveled. Still so much further to go.

“If we don’t make a stand together…make a change now…you’ll hear this again in the news,” Freeman said. “It’ll be somebody else’s child that had died in there off of fentanyl.”

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says no deputies faced discipline as a result of the investigation into Ford’s death.

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