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.

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5 Responses

  1. This is so sad a story. I tend to be of the belief that if nobody got hurt, then who cares? There is so little compassion in the US legal system; once the law enforcers get their hooks into someone, they really don’t like to let go until they have chowed down on their pound of flesh.

    The conditions described are endemic to the US penal system.

    From the article:

    “But the dismissal of the excessive force, failure to protect, official policy of indifference claims, and indifference to Rice’s declining medical condition on behalf of jail officials and doctors was affirmed.”

    The jail officials knew nothing about it and the doctors did nothing wrong. Sounds familiar.

  2. Regarding “psychogenic polydipsia” the term for drinking too much water.
    I drank massive amounts of water on purpose when in hospital(jail) as it IS the only antidote to the medication(poison).
    What do you, the patient feel while on the medication(poison)?
    Thirst.
    Psychiatrists also call the feeling of thirst (from the poison) a delusion, a psychiatric illness.

    • You know, I thought about this. Quite a few medications can cause hallucinations; others can cause rapid heart rate, which can also cause hallucinations.

      The authorities in charge of Nicholas Rice knew of his diagnosis, so they would have been of the understanding that his diagnosis encompassed hallucinations; and also of the fact that his medication might have caused hallucinations.

      So, it is fair to say that one way or another, these people were aware of the likelihood of him having hallucinations.

      A dry throat is another potential side effect of medication as is excessive sweating.

      Put a hallucination together with a dry throat and you have an unquenchable thirst. Put these symptoms together with excessive sweating and you have a fear of dehydration.

      These symptoms are seen in cases of recreational drug use, and medications like Seroquel can also cause them.

      Now, in the understanding of the authorities, the “psychogenic polydipsia” of which you speak is supposed to be a symptom found in people diagnosed with schizophrenia – regardless of the evidence that typical medications can cause it – so it can be reasonably stated that they knew he might drink excessively.

      The point is that whichever way one chooses to look at this, it was foreseeable that Nicholas could die from excessive water intake; yet he was left unattended with an unlimited water supply.

      When Joshua Shaw and other inmates alerted guards, they did nothing.

      Claims of a “failure to protect” and “an official policy of indifference” are clear cut and I would reinstate them.

      That Nicholas Rice’s death was foreseeable under the circumstances he was held under are clear.

      Were the jail officials, the doctors, and the guards brought before me, I would make those rulings. It is a travesty that they will not be jailed.

  3. Bank robbery is a federal crime, which the authorities seriously frown upon, whether it came off or not.

    The moral of this story is that shrinks and healthcare professionals can make any determination they want because they know that there are no consequences to their claims.

    This line says it all:

    Given the evidence that Rice went unbathed for significant periods of time, was developing bedsores, and had skin sloughing off his body when lifted up off of his bed, it is conceivable that a jury would find that the nursing staff had consciously disregarded (my emphasis) the consequences of Rice’s failure to care for himself and thus deprived him (or helped deprive him) of humane conditions of confinement…

    Reality is whatever they say it is. All claims to the contrary be damned.

  4. I continued to be disturbed by the outcome that should never have happened….. He called me twice for advice very disturbed by a couple incidents, one bieng the witnessing of his fathers near fatal heroin overdose…. In 2001-2003 he suffered and was a victim of system failure from Berrien County’s Mental Health health Failures. He deserved the mental health treatment not a ignorant Doctor DX malingering. He died a inhumane death. I hope he one day is able to rest in peace.

    have lost their licences to Negligence and Incompentance. T

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