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Oregon Prisoner Paralyzed by Suicide Attempt Seeks $12 Million

An Oregon prisoner who attempted to commit suicide but ended up a quadriplegic is suing jail officials for $12 million.

On May 4, 2012, Westley Wilson, 29, was arrested in Portland, Oregon, for violating a restraining order. He was initially confined in the Inverness Jail but he was transferred to the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) on May 10, 2012. Both facilities are operated by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Department.

When Wilson was transferred, the county's corrections health department sent a handwritten note with him, advising MCDC staff that he had been housed in a single cell because he kept calling a sergeant "God."

A nurse saw Wilson sitting on a bench, weeping and holding his head. When she introduced herself, Wilson said "No you're not. You are God!"

"His interaction indicated some unstable behavior and scheduling of mental health contact but no statements of suicidal thoughts," according to a sheriff’s office report.

Portland attorney Greg Kafoury contends that jail staff should have recognized that Wilson was depressed and suffering a psychotic episode. Wilson should have been housed in a secure cell, on suicide watch, said Kafoury. His placement in the general population "was obviously flawed."

Wilson was housed in a lower level cell, but at about 6:22 p.m., during the May 10, 2012 evening meal he climbed up a railing to the top tier and was facing forward.

Guard Frank Newsome and other staff attempted to talk Wilson down, according to a sheriff’s office report. They were unsuccessful. Wilson jumped from the second-floor tier, landing head first on the concrete below, leaving him a quadriplegic.

In February, 2013, Kafoury filed a $12 million state court suit, alleging that county and jail staff negligently failed to prevent Wilson's suicide attempt.

Wilson's suit comes just two years after a spate of jail suicides prompted a grand jury to urge reforms. See (PLN Nov. 2011, p. 8; & Apr. 2013, p. 34). The sheriff’s office responded by installing suicide prevention bars on the upper level tiers of its two-level dorm, removing items from cells that prisoners might use to harm themselves, and providing eight hours of suicide prevention training to staff, according to the sheriffs chief deputy Mike Shults.

We will report on any significant developments in the case.

Source:  The Oregonian

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