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1.25 Million Corizon Settlement in Mentally Ill Michigan Prisoner’s Dehydration Death

The Michigan Department of Corrections and its medical vendor, Corizon Health, agreed in October 2019 to pay $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit involving the death of a mentally ill prisoner who died of dehydration after guards turned off the water in her confinement cell.

Darlene Martin, 66, was sent to prison for retail fraud. She was placed in the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV) in December 2013. Beginning in June 2014, she began complaining other prisoners were harassing her and wanting to perform oral sex on her.

Shortly afterward, she began exhibiting signs of mental illness. On June 10, 2014, she was placed in solitary confinement “as punishment for exhibiting signs of mental illness, specifically cursing and yelling,” the complaint alleged.

Between June 10 and June 22, Martin was “hog tied while naked, subjected to excessive force, deprived of food and water, forced to stand, sit, and lay in, while naked, her own feces and/or urine” by guards or while observed by them.

MDOC records reflect that Martin was at risk of heat-related illness and that she was unable to comply with her mental health treatment plan, causing medical officials to administer psychotropic drugs via injection.

Martin’s continued erratic and disruptive behavior upset guards, especially her act of spilling toilet water on her blanket. The latter caused guards to turn the water off in her cell. Martin quit eating and drinking, but on several occasions said she was “thirsty.” Yet, she was not provided even a cup of cup of water for fear she would spill it on the floor.

Martin, on the evening of June 21, 2014, “was observed desperately trying to suck/drink water from the disconnected sink in her cell.” The complaint alleged she was on a combination of Zyprexa and Ativan, which “is not recommended and is associated with excessive sedation, severe hypotension, and even death.”

For over a week, no one took Martin’s vital signs, even at times when she was lying naked face down on her bed as they injected her with the combination of psychotropic drugs.

Around 4 p.m. on June 22, one of the untrained prisoners assigned to provide one-on-one supervision of Martin reported to guards that Martin “not moving or responding, and that the aide could not see or hear [Martin] breathing.”

Guards delayed providing CPR, but Martin was revived. After transport to a hospital, “she was diagnosed with hypoxic respiratory failure, severe dehydration, (she had a water deficit of eleven liters), liver failure, and renal failure.” She suffered “severe anoxic brain injury and associated complications around the clock.” Martin died on October 12, 2017, due to complications from her treatment in MDOC.

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Related legal case

Martin v. Michigan Department of Corrections