Terrill Thomas, 38, died of dehydration after being deprived of water for 7 days while in custody at Clarke’s jail, the Milwaukee County Jail, in April, 2016. Now, his family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit naming the county, Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. and more than 20 others as defendants in the case.
The lawsuit comes about 3 months after an inquest jury recommended charges against the 7 jail employees involved in Thomas’ death. The jury found probable cause that Sheriff’s Maj. Nancy Evans; jail Lt. Kashka Meadors; and corrections officers James Ramsey-Guy, Thomas Laine, John Weber, Dominique Smith and JorDon Johnson all committed crimes in Thomas’ grueling death, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The lawsuit alleges Thomas was suffering from an “acute mental health crisis” when he arrived at jail, but officials chose to subject him to a “cruel form of punishment” by withholding water and doing several other terrible and inhumane things, reported HuffPost.
“For seven straight days, from April 17, 2016 until his death on April 24, 2016, Mr. Thomas remained locked alone in his cell, 24 hours a day, as he literally died of thirst,” the lawsuit states. “They also deprived him of edible food, a functioning toilet, access to a shower, a sanitary living environment, any relief from 24-hour lockdown, and urgently needed medical and mental health care.”
The lawsuit also says:
Contrary to jail policy, the defendants never let Mr. Thomas out of his cell from the time he entered the unit on April 17 until the time of his death on April 24. Instead, they forced him to spend the last week of his life locked in an isolation cell 24 hours a day, with no drinking water, no edible food, no working toilet, no mattress, no blanket, no shower access, no means of cleaning his cell, no ability to communicate with his family, no relief from constant lockdown, and no meaningful access to urgently needed medical or mental health care. He languished and suffered in this filthy, unsanitary cell with nothing but his jail uniform and the rations of nutraloaf, which, without water, were inedible. This 24-hour lockdown prevented Mr. Thomas from seeking water from any source outside his cell.
The 7 jail officials involved in the death are also listed among the defendants in the lawsuit, which also names 8 jail supervisors, 14 correctional officers, Armor Correction Health Services, a doctor and 3 nurses who worked for Armor at the jail.
“The Estate of Terrill Thomas brings this action to hold Defendants accountable for subjecting Mr. Thomas to unconscionable pain and suffering and causing his death,” in violation of the 14th Amendment, the Americans With Disabilities Act and Wisconsin law, the suit says.
HuffPost reported that In a period of just 8 days in the jail, Thomas lost 34 pounds, which was more than 10 percent of his body weight, according to the lawsuit. The suit said staff members “regularly turned off inmates’ water to punish them for alleged misbehavior or to compel compliance with a staff directive.”
“By April 23 he was too weak to yell or bang on his window. He was simply lying naked on his cell floor, barely able to move, severely dehydrated, literally dying of thirst,” the suit alleges. “The change in Mr. Thomas’ condition was obvious to every jail employee who looked into his cell, including multiple defendants. However, not a single one bothered to call for help until it was too late to save Mr. Thomas’ life.”
By April 24, he was found dead, one week after being put in isolation.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages
(Article By James Carter)