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$750,000 Settlement in Alabama Prisoner’s Heat Death

A $750,000 settlement was paid to the mother of an Alabama mentally ill prisoner who died as the result of exposure to extreme heat while on psychotropic medication.

Just four days after his admission to Kilby Correctional Facility (KCF), prisoner Farron Barksdale, 32, was found unconscious in his segregation cell. Two days prior to his August 8, 2007 arrival at KCF, Barksdale was sentenced to life without parole for killing two police officers. He had schizophrenia and had been repeatedly hospitalized before his arrest.

While in the Limestone County Jail, Barksdale’s mental illness was managed without psychotropic medication. That immediately changed upon intake at KCF. Dr. Joseph McGinn, an employee of MHM Correctional Services, who provided mental health services for KCF prisoners, prescribed several medications.

He prescribed Navane, Cogentin, Seroquel and Triavil. The first three medications warn they can cause problems when the patient is exposed to extreme heat. The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) was aware of this danger, providing in policy that prisoners on psychotropic medication be provided ice, increased fluids, allowed extra showers or placed in an air conditioned unit.

KCF has an air conditioned mental health unit. Barksdale, however, was not placed in the unit and was housed in a regular segregation cell. From August 8 to August 11, the outdoor temperature around KCF ranged from 103 degrees to 106 degrees.

It was 106 degrees on the day Barksdale was found unresponsive in his cell. Upon his arrival at the infirmary on the afternoon of August 11, Barksdale was “snoring and moaning.” He had a temperature of 103.1 degrees.

Despite that condition, it took another 30 minutes for Dr. Michael Robbins to authorize taking Barksdale to a hospital. He never regained consciousness and died on August 20.

The estate for Barksdale agreed to the settlement on January 15, 2009. The settlement requires various payments from the defendant: Prison Health Services/Dr. Robbins $80,000; MHM Correctional Services/Dr. McGinn $370,000; former KCF Warden Arnold Holt $300,000. The estate was represented by Southern Center for Human Rights attorney Sarah Geraghty and Huntsville attorneys Jake Watson and Herman Watson, Jr. See: Barksdale v. Holt, USDC, M.D. Alabama, Case No 2:08-cv-00441

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Related legal case

Barksdale v. Holt

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.