A Farfax County citizens panel that investigated the death last December of a man who had just spent four days in the county jail will call today for the resignation of Sheriff James D. Swinson.
The panel's report, to be released at a news conference today, declares that there was "no justification for such barbarous treatment" of Donald Ferguson, a 28-year-old construction worker who died of kidney failure following a stay in jail. The report says Swinson's administration of the jail -- one of his major duties -- and its failure to provide proper medical treatment for Ferguson "were at least contributing factors" in the death.
The 15-member panel was formed by the Fairfax County Citizens for Improving Relations and has no legal standing. The citizens group coalesced in response to publicity about the death and criticism of jail operations.
Panel members include U.S. Rep. Herbert E. Harris II, State Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan and Fairfax County Supervisor Warren E. Cikens, all Democrats. Gartland confirmed the report's contents last night.
Swinson, a Republican, could not be reached last night for comment. His term expires in December and he is not seeking reelection.
Gartlan said the panel called for Swinson's resignation rather than his removal from office because a proceeding against him would take too long.
The panel held public hearings in February to investigate Ferguson's treatment at jail.
According to the report, Ferguson was the third black inmate to die within a six-month period.
The report says that while Ferguson was confined in the jail while awaiting a hearing on an auto tampering charge he began hallucinating and was "trussed up like an animal" and shackled in a jail cell. The report also alleges that Ferguson's attorney was denied access to him.
Swinson acknowledged last January that "some mistakes" were made in Ferguson's treatment. He made the statement at a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors, who called for a study of the way the jail is run.
At the same meeting, Robert F. Horan Jr., the county prosecutor, said that in his opinion "there was a failure to monitor Ferguson's situation in the jail during the time he was virtually unable to take care of himself." Horan said Ferguson was not treated in accord with the jail's own rules.
In February, Swinson asked the supervisors to add a registered nurse supervisor and two physicians' assistants to the jail's staff of five medics.
Gartlan said the citizen panel also will recommend:
Abolishing elections for sheriff.
Hiring a professional jail administrator.
Naming a citizens police council to investigate complaints of police brutality and to review existing police conduct laws and court policies relating to arrest writs and warrants.
Improving police community relations.