Letter: Release of drug-addicted son from jail led to heroin overdose

Jamie Daniel Coleman, June 5 1987 - October 26 2009

Jamie Daniel Coleman, June 5 1987 - October 26 2009

Published in The Oregonian, October 2, 2010

In response to your article “Quiet deaths scream warning” (Sept. 14): I am thankful that someone in the district attorney’s office is finally realizing that releasing sober, struggling heroin addicts from jail contributes to their deaths.

My son, Jaime Coleman, was still in high school in a “nice” area of Portland when a dealer offered him and some of his closest friends what he said was “opium” (and therefore not dangerous like heroin). They were young and invincible and took the bait. The rest of the kids were finally able to get and stay sober, but my son continued to struggle, with varying degrees of success.

In October 2009, he was in jail, sober and had told me that he never wanted to touch heroin again. He was scheduled to be released into a program, but instead was released ahead of schedule (with no notification) in the middle of the night from Inverness Jail with no means of transportation. Jail officials released him with a man who had been using heroin for many years, who then offered Jaime a ride. Jaime died from a heroin overdose the next day.

I begged for an investigation because of conflicting information at the scene of the overdose. I guess my son’s death wasn’t important enough, and nothing was done. The same people who were later arrested for the overdose of another young man probably supplied the heroin that killed my son. Too bad they weren’t arrested sooner.

Jaime was 22 years old the night he died. He was a beautiful child and a wonderful young man. Would my son still be alive today if the jail officials had done what they were supposed to and morally obligated to do? It would seem to be fairly easy to do the right thing. I don’t know who makes the decisions to release struggling, desperate-to-stay-sober addicts alone in the middle of the night. How many other young people have died because of those callous, irresponsible decisions to release “just another addict”?

The newspaper account of my son’s death carried a mug shot of a “drug addict,” which did not really represent Jaime. This final insult serves to further insulate the city of Portland and all of us from the truth: These are our children. Open your eyes.

Helen Connors, Wilton, N.Y.

Oregonian editor’s note: Jaime Coleman was part of an emergency early release of prisoners from Inverness Jail because of weekend overcrowding. Read The Oregonian’s October 2009 story about him – “Two men released from jail early die together two days later”.

READ – About Jamie, a virtual memorial created by Jamie Coleman’s family and friends.