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$225,000 Paid in Mentally Ill Prisoner's Death

$225,000 paid in mentally ill prisoner's death

In 1991, John E. Rickert was placed in the DOC's custody to serve a sentence upon conviction of a crime. Mr. Rickert was suffering from an unspecified mental illness at the time of his incarceration, of which the DOC was aware.

Initially, Mr. Rickert was housed at the Special Offender Center (SOC), in Monroe, Washington. The SOC is responsible for evaluating and treating mentally ill prisoners within the state of Washington. At the SOC, Mr. Rickert's mental illness was stabilized with medication and he began to participate in treatment sessions. His mother, Ginette Rickert, was involved in and monitored the course of treatment the DOC was providing during this period.

Mr. Rickert was subsequently transferred to the Washington State Penitentiary ("WSP") in Walla Walla, Washington, where he was housed in a mental health unit. When Ms. Rickert questioned the DOC's transfer decision, she was assured that her son's condition had improved and that he was doing well. In reality, Mr. Rickert's condition had deteriorated to the point where he was no longer showering, eating, or caring for himself at all. WSP staff failed to intervene, and Mr. Rickert eventually died alone in his cell.

Ms. Rickert filed suit, alleging that the DOC had acted negligently in failing to care for and supervise her son. Although denying any wrongdoing, the DOC agreed to settle the case for $225,000 and to evaluate its policies regarding the treatment and monitoring of mentally ill prisoners. Ms. Rickert was represented by Margaret Cunniff-Holm of Connelly, Holm, Tacom & Meserve, an Olympia law firm. See: Rickert v. State of Washington, No. 95-2-03923-2 (Thurston County Superior Court, Feb. 5, 1999).

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Related legal case

Rickert v. State of Washington