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Salt Lake County, Utah, Settles Federal Civil Rights Wrongful Death Claim for $950,000

The settlement concluded a federal civil rights lawsuit, which had alleged that, “Her cries and the pleas of other prisoners to help her were ignored by guards who assumed she was going through (drug) withdrawal,” according to news accounts. Prison Legal News has extensively covered the high number of deaths in Salt Lake County and other Utah jails.

According to The Guardian, “In Utah, at least 71 people died in jail over the past five years, with half those deaths a result of suicide and most within a week of an individual entering jail. The state’s jails have the highest death rate per capita in the U.S.”

Unfortunately, deaths like those of Ostler are all too common, given the fact that the U.S. prisoner population has increased by 500% in the past 40 years.

To her parents, Ostler was more than just a statistic. Her father, Calvin Ostler, lamented, “Our daughter died a very painful death from a medical cause that was not related to drugs. And they couldn’t get beyond looking at it as a drug event to get her any kind of help.” Unfortunately, these types of deaths of prisoners in custody are all too common.

Most vulnerable are those newly arrested, who may be on prescription medication, which is often taken away once they are admitted to jail. In the case of detainees on anti-psychotic medications, being deprived of their medication can often drive them to suicide. In the case of Ostler, it clearly caused her disease to flare up and hasten her death.

The family’s attorney, Ross Anderson, said in a statement issued after the settlement became public, “Although the $950,000 settlement will help provide for the needs of the parents and three children of Lisa Ostler, the only real justice will come after the public is informed about the outrageous causes of Lisa’s torturous death from peritonitis and after major changes are made in county jails throughout the state.”

Lisa’s father says he intends to lobby the Utah state legislature for changes in how the state’s jails are managed. See Ostler v. Harris, Case No. 2:18-cv-00254-001, U.S.D.C. (D. Utah). 






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Related legal case

Ostler v. Harris