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Chatham County sheriff hires consultants to review operations after jail death

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SAVANNAH, Georgia — A team of outside consultants will review the operations of the Chatham County jail after a 22-year-old college student was found dead there in restraints, Sheriff Al St. Lawrence said Tuesday.

The three-person team will examine existing procedures and recommend ways to improve jail operations and accountability. The team includes Chicago physician Ronald Shansky, New Mexico corrections consultant Manuel Romero and Kentucky criminal justice and human services professional Kenneth Ray.

In addition to the review, St. Lawrence said the detention center's administrator, Col. Thomas Gilberg, has retired. He will be replaced on an interim basis by the assistant jail administrator, Melissa Kohne.

"The institution of these actions will not address all issues in a day, or even a week," St. Lawrence said in a statement. "However, changes as necessary will be approached in a methodical manner to ensure citizens that the men and women of the sheriff's office will continue to serve the community in accordance to the high professional standards I expect."

The review and retirement comes after Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said a grand jury will decide next month whether to charge the sheriff's deputies in the Jan. 1 death of Matthew Ajibade. The college student had been arrested on domestic violence charges following a fight with his girlfriend. He was found dead after being placed in a restraining chair in an isolation unit inside the jail.

St. Lawrence earlier this month fired nine of his deputies in connection with Ajibade's death. The sheriff has so far declined to release the findings of an internal investigation conducted by his office or a probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. However, his office issued a memo to deputy sheriffs reminding them that they cannot use stun guns on detainees already in restraints. It is not clear whether a stun gun was used on Ajibade.

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