The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after the death of a woman in custody at the county jail on Wednesday.

The woman, identified by the sheriff’s office as Francine Laney, was 31 and had been in jail since Jan. 30.

According to the sheriff’s office, staff found Laney unconscious in her cell in the jail‘s infirmary at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday. Staff performed CPR and a nurse called 911.

Charlotte firefighters and doctors arrived, hooked up an IV, and administered an automatic external defibrillator while continuing to administer CPR, but were unable to resuscitate her.

Sheriff Garry McFadden shared his condolences in a statement, saying “words cannot express the devastation of the loss of a resident so soon after the shooting involving one of our deputies and now the emotional trauma of staff. .We are deeply saddened to announce his passing.”

Arrest records show Laney was being held at the jail on a series of charges, including breaking and entering, assaulting an official, resisting an officer and assault with a deadly weapon.

The death is the first to be reported at Mecklenburg County Jail this year. At least three inmates have died at the prison in 2021, including two who died within days of each other in May 2021.

It comes as the sheriff’s office grapples with vacancies and violence at the county jail. A state inspector’s December 2021 report found the prison had “significant security issues related to understaffing.”

The inspection revealed that the prison regularly lacked the 80 officers needed for each shift. Many shifts were often short between 10 and 15 staff members, and on some days the prison was short by up to 29 workers.

State inspectors also found 454 incident reports at the prison from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 9, 2021. Many were considered serious, including assaults on staff, inmates caught with weapons, and searches that took place. revealed homemade weapons.

The report recommended that the sheriff’s office “depopulate” the jail to a level that could be handled by current staff.

At a press conference last month, McFadden said he was trying to reduce the prison population and had contacted every other sheriff’s office in the state, but few had space in their own prisons to accommodate additional prisoners.

McFadden said he is also trying to hire more staff, but has so far found few qualified and interested candidates.

In a letter dated Feb. 9, 2022, state inspectors said they would give McFadden 60 days to develop and implement a plan to address staffing shortages and violence at the prison. McFadden said he plans to meet that deadline.


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