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Blind Texas Prisoner Dies after Confrontation with Guards

Thord “Catfish “ Dockray, 42, a blind Texas state prisoner with a history of mental illness, died on May 13, 2010 following a violent altercation with prison guards.

Dockray was housed alone in a cell in the medical wing of the Estelle Unit in Huntsville. According to prison officials he began throwing urine on prison staff, then refused to obey orders to come out of his cell. Guards sprayed him with chemical irritants but he still wouldn’t leave. A five-man team of guards then entered Dockray’s cell and subdued and restrained him. The entire incident was videotaped.

A nurse examined Dockray after the cell extraction, and he was placed on a backboard and taken to the prison infirmary. He reportedly refused medical treatment and continued to be combative. He was then returned to his cell. Guards checked on him at 30-minute intervals.

Dockray interacted with guards the next morning. Just after noon, however, he was discovered lying facedown and unresponsive. He was taken to the prison infirmary, then transported to Huntsville Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

It appears that guards at Estelle killed a blind, mentally-ill prisoner by insisting that he come out of or be removed from his cell when he was experiencing an episode of violent mental illness. Doubtless, it would have been wiser to let Dockray act out until he tired himself out; after all, he couldn’t hurt others when he was alone in his cell.

Instead, even by the prison system’s own account, prison staff engaged in a violent confrontation with Dockray that cost him his life. Such are the sad outcomes of America’s use of prisons as a substitute for mental health treatment – a legacy of the Regan-era decision to dramatically reduce government funding of mental health services. As a result, it is estimated there are more mentally ill people serving time in prisons than hospitalized in mental health facilities.

Source: Houston Chronicle

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