Attorney: ‘No rationalization’ for not watching suicidal inmate in jail

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Attorney: ‘No rationalization’ for not watching suicidal inmate in jail

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Justin Stewart

Editor’s note: An I-Team investigation found more than a dozen lawsuits against area jails claiming inmates were beaten, raped, medically neglected or killed in jail. In addition to possibly costing taxpayers dearly, advocates for inmates say these cases suggest a failure of the system to protect vulnerable people in public custody. Read our full investigation here.

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The mother of a man who committed suicide in the Warren County jail last year is suing the county alleging jail staff ignored warning signs and didn’t take precautions to prevent him from harming himself.

The lawsuit brought by the mother of Justin Stewart alleges multiple court records and his behavior at the jail showed he suffered from severe mental health issues, but jail staff determined he had “no mental health needs.” Stewart had been arrested April 19,2016 for failing to comply with mental health treatment required by his probation after a prior arrest for improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, the suit says.

Bonita Stewart filed suit in federal court this month against the county and Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc. which provides health services in the the Warren County jail under a contract.

Stewart’s attorney, Lebanon attorney Konrad Kircher, said Stewart was in the jail waiting to be institutionalized.

“This young man, he had severe, obvious mental health problems,” Kircher said. “For whatever reason they said, ‘we’re going to put him on hourly watches. There’s no rationalization for that.”

Stewart hung himself in his cell on Aug. 30.

Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims said he can’t comment on pending lawsuits, and expressed frustration with being unable to publicly answer mounting lawsuits against his agency.

“You can’t possibly get all of the details of these things out in the media, and try them in the media. It’s not possible,” he said. “Unfortunately lawsuits aren’t that uncommon in our line of work.”

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