‘It was just a matter of time’: Former inmate speaks about jail conditions after stabbing

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A former inmate of the Shelby County Jail is sharing his thoughts after an inmate is accused of fatally stabbing another inmate at the Criminal Justice Center.

Investigators said inmate Donnie Clay was somehow able to get a makeshift knife into a holding area outside of a courtroom and fatally stabbed fellow inmate Deion Byrd in the neck.

Man accused of fatally stabbing fellow inmate appears in court

For security reasons, the man who was once jailed at 201 Poplar asked us to only identify him as “JS.” He said he was incarcerated for about a year in 2020.

“It was just a matter of time,” he said. “Just the amount of security failures that I had seen, it was quite apparent that one day someone was going to take the opportunity to either harm staff, a member of the court or obviously another inmate.”

‘Pure negligence’: Family of man stabbed at 201 Poplar demands answers

He claims pat downs for those serving time weren’t happening enough, saying he was rarely patted down when he would go to criminal court. However, JS did say there were some good guards.

“There’s been some good guards, there’s ones that I like and some that obviously went above and beyond,” he said.

JS believes one of the biggest problems is not having adequate staffing.

“They need to have more incentives, better pay for officers. They need to keep them,” he said.

He’s also calling for more mental health resources.

Healthcare provider raises concerns about mental health services in jail

“The amount of emotional difficulties that I’ve had since and still makes me wonder about the other people I had met there, other friends, even immigrants that don’t speak English, just the tools they have to combat just the pure evil of that place and there’s no resources for them best I’ve seen,” said JS.

We did reach out to the sheriff’s office about his comments. A spokesperson said they were looking into our request. We’ll let you know when we hear back.

In the meantime, the sheriff’s office previously said, “The Sheriff’s Office is reviewing this tragic event and would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to the family of Mr. Byrd. The Bureau of Professional Standards and Integrity is focusing on internal failures that led to this unfortunate incident, while the command staff is reviewing changes, improvements, and training that we hope will prevent such an occurrence in the future.”

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