Autopsy Confirms Michigan Prisoner Died Due to Deficient Care

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
November 20, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU Continues to Challenge Conditions that Caused Prisoner Death

JACKSON COUNTY, MI – The American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project announced today the results of the autopsy of a Michigan prisoner who spent four days in restraints before his death in August 2006. The report confirmed that the 21-year-old, who has a history of mental illness, died of hyperthermia and dehydration after spending days shackled to a metal slab in an unbearably hot cell.

“This prisoner received the death penalty for the crime of being mentally ill in the Michigan prison system,” said Elizabeth Alexander, director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “No other prisoner should suffer his fate.”

The ACLU National Prison Project and local civil rights attorneys challenged the conditions that led to this prisoner’s death, on behalf of Michigan prisoners and, as a result, a federal court in Michigan last Monday ordered the Department of Corrections to end the use of in-cell non-medical restraints.

In an opinion issued last Monday U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Enslen described the need for significant improvements to mental health care in Michigan prisons and provided details of the needlessly tragic death of the prisoner (referred to by the ACLU only as TS under the terms of a court order). Judge Enslen opened his opinion with a prayer for TS and others who have died avoidable deaths due to deficient health care, noting that “Any earthly help comes far too late for them.”

For much of the four days TS was held in restraints, he was exposed to extreme heat inside his cell. His physical and mental health deteriorated quickly, but neither medical nor custody staff reacted to his repeated refusals of food and water. When offered a shower on the last day of life, he could barely stand up and needed help to walk. Still, medical and mental health staff did not intervene.

“The autopsy results were entirely predictable,” said Patricia Streeter, an Ann Arbor civil rights attorney representing plaintiffs. “This prisoner was forced to live in conditions that have been compared to torture. His death could have been easily avoided if medical, mental health, or custody staff had done their job.”

Judge Enslen’s November 13 opinion is online at:

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