The family of a mentally ill Oregon inmate will receive a $2.85 million settlement two years after the man was found dead in his cell.
On April 8th, 2015, the lifeless body of Bradley Thomas was discovered in an otherwise empty jail cell.
The man, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, died from dehydration and starvation.
During a severe depressive episode, Thomas refused to eat, drink, or take his prescription medication. He’d kept the strike up for days, repeatedly acting out as he suffered through a severe depressive episode.
The New York Times reports what jail staff had written in a facility log.
In the days leading up to his death, Thomas’s behavior rapidly took a turn for a worse. He dunked his bedding and clothes in a toilet – then he started urinating in his cell. Feces were found smeared across the walls.
All the while, Thomas refused to eat. He spit out his food and splashed water around the cell, up until deputies were forced to turn off the water supply, alleged the suit against the facility.
The Times writes that Thomas had been arrested on a misdemeanor charge. But after meeting with a county judge, the official ordered him transferred to a state mental hospital.
However, jail staff were told the asylum didn’t have any free beds.
Thomas was taken back to the detention center and found lying naked and unconscious the next morning.
“What’s a mystery to me is why they didn’t just take him to the emergency room because he was so clearly in distress. It’s shocking,” recounted Jennifer Middleton, an attorney representing Thomas’ family.
“For whatever reason, they just didn’t see what was plainly in front of them – which was that he was dying on their watch,” said Middleton.
Since the settlement, Lincoln County officials have said they’ve joined a program which endeavors to keep the mentally ill out of jails.
“If we could all live in hindsight, things like this would never happen. Had people realized that he was going through dehydration like he was, they would have immediately taken steps so that this didn’t happen,” said Lincoln County attorney Steve Kraemer. “Keep in mind, when he came into the jail, he was living by himself and caring for his daily needs.”
Thomas, the Times reports, had been arrested following a bizarre altercation with his landlord.
Confronted for playing loud music at night and beating on his RV, truck and boat with a staff, Thomas spit in the woman’s face before threatening her husband with a sword.
Jail staff were apparently acquainted with Thomas, who’d been sent to the Lincoln County facility once before. On that occasion, he’d similarly been remanded to a state mental hospital.
But after the argument with his landlord, Thomas told his keepers that he wasn’t mentally ill or having an episode – but just as the length of his incarceration increased, so too did the symptoms of disturbance.
“I was sickened to read that my brother was seen wiping feces on a toilet and later licking that same toilet,” said Bradley’s brother, Ronald Thomas, “and nobody did anything but take notes.”