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$500,000 Settlement in Oregon Jail Self-Mutilation Case

In March 2001, the Multnomah county jail in Portland, Oregon, paid over $500,000 to settle a lawsuit by a mentally ill jail prisoner who gouged his eyes out during a psychotic episode. In 1998 Peter Klarquist was found guilty except for insanity of assorted charges, including second-degree assault and criminal mischief. The charges stemmed from Klarquist driving the wrong way into oncoming traffic, hitting five cars and injuring four people. Klarquist suffers from schizo-affective disorder.

After being convicted, Multnomah county chief criminal judge Julie Frantz ordered Klarquist immediately transferred to the Oregon State Hospital to be treated for his mental illness. He was not transferred due to overcrowding at the hospital. Five days later, on December 15, 1998, Klarquist was still in a jail isolation cell, refusing to eat or take his anti-psychotic medication. Klarquist asked a jail guard for a knife so he could obey voices ordering him to sever parts of his body. Despite this request, the guard did not seek mental health assistance for Klarquist. A few hours later, in a full blown psychotic episode, Klarquist obeyed the voices and gouged his eyes out. Klarquist's parents filed suit in federal court on his behalf claiming that the jail was negligent for not treating his mental illness. In March 2001, Multnomah County and the Professional Liability Fund settled the lawsuit by paying Klarquist $500,000.

Despite the settlement, mentally ill jail prisoners are still not transferred to the state hospital due to the hospital bed shortage. County sheriff Dan Noelle has jail deputies take mentally ill prisoners to the state hospital to be turned away and returned to the jail. "I make the hospital refuse us at the door. It may seem like a stupid thing to do after they tell us they don't have room, but it's the only way to protect taxpayers in terms of litigation," Noelle told media. Noelle has since sued the state of Oregon for the cost of housing mentally ill prisoners refused by the state hospital.

Source: The Oregonian

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