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Paralyzed: A jail's dark secrets

Fern Ornelas, accused of assault, walked into the Hillsborough County Jail at about midnight on Oct. 17. A little more than eight hours later, he left the jail via ambulance. His neck had been broken.

Jail Superintendent David Dionne has refused to talk about what happened - except with county commissioners. His silence is insulting and unacceptable.

Ornelas lies in a bed at Massachusetts General Hospital, his room guarded by a county jail officer. Ornleas' family members say they sometimes are not allowed to visit and are given no explanation. More insulting secrecy. Ornelas is an inmate with a history of mental illness. He also is a citizen whose rights did not entirely evaporate when he stepped into the jail.

Superintendent Dionne acts as though the jail belongs to him. It belongs to the people, who pay him to do a job. That job does not include keeping secrets about what happens to citizens who temporarily reside there. The state Attorney General's office has opened a criminal investigation. Getting answers should not have taken that drastic a step.

Eric Church
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