State Pays After Inmate with Mental Illness Dies

In February 2008, a mentally ill inmate died while in custody. He was found cold to the touch and laying in his own feces. Officials say he was being held naked in solitary confinement for 11 days and developed hypothermia. His final cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia.

Back in 1998, Jerome Laudman pled guilty to strong armed robbery and was sentences to 10 years in jail. 

Laudman sufferred from "schizophrenia, mental retardation, and bipolar disorder." He also had a speech impedement that made it difficult for him to communicate. 

During Laudman's time in the South Carolina prison system, it was harshly criticized for its treatment of mental illnesses. In 2000, the system was categorized as a state of "crisis" for its mental health practices.

While Laudman was incarcerated, he was committed to the psychiatric hospital approximately 13 times. On one visit, he was prescribed medication and a follow-up visit but was never taken back to see the psychatrist. 

In early February of 2008, Laudman was moved to the Lee Supermax cell. This cell was created for punishment and for intensive supervision. It still remains a mystery as to why he was moved to this cell, although one administrator told an investigator that he was being disruptive, destroying his room, and not wearing clothes.

Before being put in the cell, witnesses told investigators that he was sprayed with chemical munition after refusing to be handcuffed and then thrown into the wrong cell. The officer then pulled him out and threw him into the correct cell.

While in the Lee Supermax cell, Laudman was stripped of basic necessities like underwear, socks, shoes, uniform, mattress, sheets and blanket, etc...The room was cold, and he was not provided his medication. 

After several days, an officer told his supervisor that Laudman didn't look well and that his food trays were piled up near the door. He did not write these things up in a report because in the past he had been told to leave it alone.

On February 18, 2008, Laudman was checked by nurses and was found cold to the touch and laying in his feces. He also was unresponsive, had a low pulse, and his eyes were dilated. 

After Laudman was removed from his cell, a couple inmates were told to clean the cell up before investigators got there and to not talk about what had happened. Investigators saw no signs of feces or vomit but did note that the cell smelled of cleaning supplies.

Laudman's family filed a wrongful death suit against the prison system and settled in 2014 for $1.2 million dollars. The prison system has since changed policies regarding those with a mental illness and continues to work on policies to keep officers, inmates, and the community safe. While the settlement money will not bring back Jerome Laudman, the system hopes it will bring his family some closure on the matter. 

 

 

 

Information used for this article was found in "The State" newspaper.

 

 

 

 

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