Courthouse persecution and prison neglect

A recent headline in Courthouse News Service struck me as peculiar, Parents of Late Schizophrenic Win Appeal. Why should a young man be known only for his psychiatric label? He wasn’t a professional schizophrenic, was he? Keep reading, and you’ve entered a very weird world indeed.

The first paragraph is strange enough, but not nearly so strange as what follows.

The 7th Circuit revived some of the claims of parents who blamed Indiana prison officials and medical staff for the death of their 21-year-old schizophrenic son, who died from drinking too much water while awaiting transfer to a psychiatric hospital.

Just take a gander at what he was actually in prison for.

The prison saga and subsequent legal battle began on March 5, 2003, when [Nicholas] Rice, of Stevensville, Mich., stole a neighbor’s car and drove to a KeyBank in Nappanee, Ind. Rice threatened to detonate a bomb if the teller refused to give him money. Then he walked out of the bank without explanation or money and returned home. He was arrested for auto theft and jailed in Berrien County, Mich.

This imprisonment leads to a hospitalization, and then discharge.

When he was discharged in August 2003, he was identified as a suspect in the failed Indiana bank robbery and was taken to Elkhart Jail in Indiana. He was booked in September 2003 and bail was set at $20,000, preventing his release.

Now tell me this second arrest has anything to do with anything besides protocol.

Things go downhill from there. The problem I have with this predicament is that if you’ve got a person in prison for a bank robbery that didn’t even come off. Who’s pressing charges?

Well, actually it probably did have to do with a little bit more than protocol. You’ve got the criminal justice authorities saying we’ve just had a bomb threat here, and we have to take these matters very seriously indeed, and therefore, clang bang go the prison cell doors.

He was booked in September 2003, and he died well over a year later in December 2004.

If you read further you will find that his parents have a great deal of reason to sue, and that the courts have not been particularly responsive. This is the sad story of a young man mistreated by the state who should be remembered for something besides the psychiatric label he was given.