It was late last year when an inmate at Boulder County Jail undressed, sat down and put his fingers in his eyes. The resulting injuries left the man blind, and his parents furious at the sheriff’s departments. They have since filed a lawsuit accusing Boulder County Sheriff’s Office of neglect. But why do they believe their son’s jailers could have stopped this prisoner from hurting himself?
Were Jailers Responsible for a Prisoner’s Self-Inflicted Injuries?
The 31-year-old man at the center of this lawsuit has a long history of schizophrenia. While in jail for harassment charges, he had jumped from a second-floor balcony on two occasions—on one occasion, he broke one of his vertebrae. Then a judge added extra time onto the man’s sentence after he had served 180 days. That sent him over the edge.
After weeks of not shaving, bathing or clipping his fingernails, the man stripped and then gouged his eyes out, but his parents claim this didn’t have to happen. In the lawsuit they filed, this inmate’s parents accuse the sheriff’s department of refusing to give their son his medication. Though the jail claims that the inmate refused to take the medicine and they could not force him, the parents say the jail could have gotten a court order to do so.
The man had tried to hurt himself before, and before the eye gouging incident, he had informed jailers that he was thinking of “taking out” his eye. In addition, after the inmate had jumped off the balcony, jailers are accused of nicknaming the man and teasing him.
The parents of this 31-year-old are now hoping that this lawsuit will spur change in the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department. They believe jailers lack the training they need to handle inmates with mental illnesses, and this suit could spur officials to make a change. But with similar accusations at other Colorado jails, will it take more than one lawsuit to incite real change in the system?
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