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No Liability for Jail Prisoner’s Suicide

No Liability for Jail Prisoner's Suicide

The decedent, diagnosed as schizophrenic, was arrested on outstanding warrants. Jail personnel were notified that he was an escape risk and he was placed in a suicide watch cell. The officer on duty the next day was not informed of the reason for this placement, and when the decedent returned from court the next day, he was placed in a two-person cell instead. For the next two weeks he displayed deranged behavior which another prisoner reported to staff, though they did not see any of it. He hanged himself with a bedsheet.
Nobody was deliberately indifferent. Notwithstanding that information about his suicidal propensities was conveyed when he was admitted to jail, none of the relevant personnel were aware of any suicidal behavior on his part. A psychiatrist who prescribed medication for him did not say that he presented a suicide risk. At 530: "... [S]trange behavior alone, without indications that that behavior has a substantial likelihood of taking a suicidal turn, is not sufficient to impute subjective knowledge of a high suicide risk to jail personnel."
Plaintiffs' training and policy claims are rejected, since the plaintiffs cannot point to a pattern of suicide in the jail that would have put defendants on notice of the need for different training, and deviations from state law or other flaws in their written suicide policies do not establish deliberate indifference. One judge dissents, pointing out aspects of the record that the majority prefers to ignore. See: Estate of Novack ex rel. Turbin v. County of Wood, 226 F.3d 525 (7th Cir. 2000).

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Related legal case

Estate of Novack ex rel. Turbin v. County of Wood