When jailer Marlin Gusman was lobbying the city and the city council for his new jail a few years, ago, one of his main selling points was safety- for inmates and staff. Yet prisoners have been dying in jail, or inmates are released immediately prior to their death. This is the second suicide this year. Orleans Parish Prison has been under a federal consent decree for overall unconstitutional practices inside Gusman’s jail since June 2013. Conditions in the haven’t really improved.
Jaquin Thomas, 15, was found unresponsive in his cell by a deputy making a scheduled security round. Thomas utilized a mattress cover to hang himself. He was arrested July 24 for forcing his way into a Chateau d’Orleans apartment on July 21. His uncle, Tyrance Chancellor, was arrested with him for the same crime. It was Chancellor who told police that Thomas killed Hasahn Schawl.
From 2004 through 2014, 53 inmates perished in jail, or right after leaving. That’s an astounding number. What are 15 year olds doing with grown criminals? That’s the definition of a bad influence. I’ve written about this subject before.
A study published in 2008 by University of Texas experts found youth in adult jails are 36 times more likely to die by suicide than those housed in juvenile facilities. Moreover, the article says, youth in adults jails are 19 times more likely to die by suicide than adult inmates. The data was cited in a 2015 report by the advocacy group Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights titled “Keep Children Out of Orleans Parish Prison.”
The following list of deaths in Orleans Parish Prison since 2009 was compiled by the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition https://opprcnola.org/the-context/timeline-of-deaths-in-opp/
DEATHS IN OPP ~ 2009 to present
1. Jan 5, 2009. Cayne Miceli, 43. ” After Miceli attempted to hang herself in an isolation cell, guards strapped her to a gurney in ‘five point restraints.’ …Her family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, claiming the jail caused her death by restraining her on her back for hours, despite that knowledge that Miceli suffered from severe asthma.”
2. Jan 12, 2009. John Sanchez, 54. Police said Sanchez was intoxicated when he was arrested. He was put in an isolation cell to “sleep it off.” When deputies checked on him, he was found dead.
3. Feb 6, 2009. Richard Rowzee, 44. Friday, about 2:50 a.m., Rowzee “began to exhibit bizarre behavior,” according to […] the Sheriff’s Office. He was evaluated by medical staff and immediately taken to the hospital. Rowzee died at the hospital at 6:32 a.m.”
4. May 3, 2009. Michael Scimemi, 52. A homeless man, sentenced to 30 months for stealing a can of beer, a pack of cigarettes and a box of candy. Reportedly died of heart disease.
5. August 18, 2009. Earl Gibson. Lung cancer/renal failure
6. Oct 10, 2009. Raymond Martello, 49. “He was brought to the sheriff’s intake and processing center at about 10:30 p.m. Friday and did not appear to have any medical conditions or show any signs of distress during a standard medical examination. “At about 7:30 the next morning, he collapsed in a restroom at the intake and processing center.”
7. Dec 1, 2009. Mary Hickey, 48. Mary Hickey died […] after awakening in pain in an open women’s dorm at the South White Street jail and languishing for 30 minutes before help came and another hour before being taken to the hospital, according to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court.
8. Jan 19, 2010. Richard Searce, 60. “Died of cardiac arrest Jan. 19 while in custody of the sheriff’s office. Scearce died at the Interim LSU Public Hospital, where he had been transferred for treatment of a urinary tract infection, Gusman’s office said. Scearce had barricaded himself inside his … apartment… after receiving an eviction notice. He fired an assault rifle several times and set fire to his home, police said.”
9. Mar 29, 2010. Chris Blevins, 22. “An inmate at the Orleans Parish jail was stabbed to death by another inmate Monday and a second inmate wounded after being stabbed by a different man….Blevins…died during surgery about two hours after the stabbing during the jail’s midday meal.”
10. Mar 29, 2010. Shedrick Godfrey, 48. “Shedrick Godfrey collapsed midday Monday while working a community service detail with other inmates, according to a news release from Gusman’s office. He was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. of an apparent heart attack.”
11. Apr 16, 2010. Michael Hitzman, 31. “Hitzman, 31, killed himself in an isolation cell last April within hours of being brought into the jail’s Intake and Processing Center by a bail bondsman. An investigation by the sheriff’s office found that no employees checked on him for at least an hour, during which time he tied his shirt to bars in the cell door and hanged himself.”
12. May 6, 2010. David O’Neal, 44. “According to the Sheriff’s Office, which cited a preliminary autopsy by the Orleans Parish coroner’s office, O’Neal died from ‘acute myocardial infarction with sudden cardiac arrest as the cause of death.’ But family members who viewed a photograph of O’Neal’s face when they went to see his body at the coroner’s office said they doubted that conclusion. Lisa Christmas, a niece who was O’Neal’s next-of-kin, said her uncle’s face appeared swollen and bloody, making her wonder if he was beaten or ‘in a scuffle’ before his death. O’Neal had no history of heart problems, she said.” “A guard said O’Neal was severely beaten by fellow inmates and suffered a laceration on the crown of his skull, most likely from a weapon.”
13. Jul 17, 2010. Jose Nelson Reyes-Zelaya, 28. “Jose Nelson Reyes-Zelaya had been in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for one day when he was found dead after ‘apparent asphyxiation,’ according to a short memo released by ICE….According to the ICE memo, ‘deputies provided emergency medical care to him and called for an ambulance. Attempts to revive the detainee were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead.’”
14. Aug 7, 2010. Tracy Barquet, 25. “…in a federal court filing, the Justice Department noted that Tracy Barquet Jr. died in 2010 days after he was beaten and pepper-sprayed by guards. Barquet’s death remains classified as ‘undetermined’ by the Orleans Parish coroner….For Tracy Barquet Sr., his 25-year-old son’s death continues to raise unresolved questions more than two years later. Barquet said his son had a drug problem, but said he’d never had a previous history of seizures, one potential cause of death posited by the coroner’s office. The events leading up to his son’s death – including the alleged beating and pepper-spraying days before it – are troubling, he said.”
15. Jan 8, 2011. Louis Alvarez, Age Unknown. Alleged suicide.
16. June 4, 2011. Izell Henderson. Liver cancer
17. Jun 15, 2011. Maurice Williams, 42. “The 42-year-old inmate…was playing basketball in the recreation yard when he collapsed and became unresponsive, according to the release.”
18. Jul 28, 2011. Lawrence Hathorn, 51. “Lawrence Hathorn, jailed on charges of drunk driving and violating parole, participated in morning roll call but was found unresponsive in his bunk during lunch, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Mary Martin Fein of the Ehrhardt Group.”
19. Aug 7, 2011. William Goetzee, 48. “… the case of Coast Guard Commander William Goetzee’s suicide in August of 2011 is, according to DOJ’s letter to Sheriff Gusman ‘…an egregious example of OPP’s inadequate monitoring and supervision practices that contributed to his death.’… Goetzee was placed in a two-man cell on suicide watch with a guard ‘assigned to constantly observe his behavior to ensure he did not attempt to cause self-harm. The correctional officer left him unmonitored for five hours.’”
20. Nov 1, 2012. Earl E. Lodge, 55. “Earl E. Lodge had been undergoing treatment for ‘metastatic cancer,’ Dr. Samuel Gore, the jail’s medical director, said in a statement.”
21. Feb 7, 2013. Ricky Russell, 26. “Ricky Russell did not report for breakfast Thursday morning, according to a statement from Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, distributed by a public relations firm Thursday afternoon. Deputies found him unresponsive in his cell just before 5:30 a.m. in the Conchetta facility, where he was housed alone, and tried to revive him, Gusman said.”
22. Mar 1, 2013. Wardell Taylor, 36. “An Orleans Parish inmate died of ‘apparent cardiac arrest’ at the jail on Thursday, the day he turned 36, according to a short news release issued by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office on Friday afternoon. Wardel Taylor died at the Interim LSU Public hospital, the release stated.”
23. May 21, 2013. John Alexcee, Jr. 50. “According to a statement from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, Alexcee was diagnosed with metastatic cancer during his incarceration and died at Interim LSU Public Hospital.”
24. Sept 28, 2013. Clifton Morgan, 28. “died of self-inflicted asphyxiation…in a holding cell across from the watch commander’s office.”
25. Mar 23, 2014. Willie Lee, 40. According to the Sheriff’s office, Lee “died of heart failure after getting into a fight with another prisoner.”
26. March 24, 2015, Ryan Miller, age 24, hangs himself with a phone cord. Miller’s attorney, Bruce Netterville, said that Miller’s mother “told him Tuesday that her son had informed jail officials that he was having suicidal thoughts and that Miller had been placed on suicide watch. ‘If that’s the case, what kind of operation are they running over there?’ Netterville said. ‘If that’s what (Miller) says he’s thinking, how do you put him somewhere where he can manage to kill himself?’
27. May 30, 2015, Charles Allen dies of a heart attack while in custody
28. November 15, 2015, Calvin Thomas, age 34 died of sickle cell disease while awaiting trial. According to his sister, “He’d been to the hospital more times than she could count for what she called a ‘sickle cell crisis,’ but he always came out of it. Her family learned Sunday that Thomas…had been in the hospital for some time before he was pronounced dead Sunday. The family didn’t know he was hospitalized until a sheriff’s deputy knocked on her mother’s door to tell her Thomas had died.”
29. March 7, 2016. Cleveland Tumblin, age 61, died “after he was discovered on Saturday attempting to harm himself with his prison clothes in a shower facility.”