Lawsuits add up over Bristol County jail inmate suicides

March 9, 2018
The Boston Globe
By Jenifer McKim and Chris Burrell

Barbara Kice wants justice for her son, who hanged himself in 2015 in the Bristol County House of Correction. The jail, all by itself, accounts for more than a quarter of county inmate suicides statewide, and Kice thinks she knows why so many die: Jail officials do precious little to care for troubled inmates.

The Fall River mother filed a wrongful death suit late last month against Bristol County jail staff — and its tough-talking sheriff — claiming jail officials left him in solitary confinement the day after he had told a court doctor that he was going to commit suicide. He hanged himself with a bedsheet.

Kice’s lawsuit is one of at least four ongoing cases filed by family members or current inmates alleging that the Bristol County system fails to care for its mentally ill, drug addicted, and suicidal inmates. Each lawsuit claims that jail officials put troubled inmates alone in cells — sometimes for long periods — instead of providing special treatment to deal with mental illness or drug withdrawal.

Bonnie Tenneriello, a senior attorney with the Boston-based Prisoners’ Legal Services who is representing the clients, said her agency had heard for a “long, long time from prisoners with mental illness . . . who were warehoused in solitary confinement’’ for up to 23 hours a day.

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