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FIRST ON 3 UPDATE: Bladen Co. Sheriff responds to jail beating

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BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- More than three weeks after a man was severely beaten inside the Bladen County Jail, the sheriff is finally speaking out.

Today Sheriff Prentis Benston issued the following statement:

"The assault of Joshua Ward has been thoroughly investigated by criminal investigators of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Bladen County Sheriff's Office, and it has been determined that at least four subjects have culpability in the act. Those individuals, Mathue Johnson, David Gilchrist, Twasjay Brown and Darryl Simmons, each have been subsequently charged with assault inflicting serious bodily injury and second-degree kidnapping. We look forward to an expedient resolution of these cases in the criminal justice system.

"In response to a recent request under the North Carolina Open Records Act we are providing jail incident reports for the years 2009 thru (sic) 2012.

"Bladen County Jail reports show that Bladen County's jail instances are commensurate with county jail facilities of similar size, age and physical layout within the State of North Carolina.

"It is important to note that of the total number of assaults that have occurred inside the Bladen County Jail, all did not involve prisoners against prisoners but these numbers also reflect assaults of prisoners on jail staff and personnel.

"Bladen County Sheriff's Office will continue to make every effort to operate a safe environment for inmates that are incarcerated.

"The Bladen County Jail uses sanctions as one of its tools to maintain order in the facility. Sanctions can include restrictions and or elimination of privileges for a few days to several weeks, a prisoner being moved to another call, or the moving of a prisoner to safekeeping.

"There have been increases in jail populations in recent years due to a multitude of factors; some of these factors are: the state misdemeanor housing requirements, issues with the current mental health system, proliferation of gang activity, and lengthy wait times for trials."

While the county sent Benston's statement via e-mail as a PDF file, the county attorney told WWAY the county would fulfill our request for the jail incident reports by sending them via the Postal Service.

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