Mother Sues for Son’s|Suicide in Texas Jail

     HOUSTON (CN) – Sheriff’s officers knew a mentally ill inmate was suicidal but put him alone in a cell with a bed sheet, and he hanged himself in jail – just as his father had done, his mother claims in court.
     Jacqueline Smith sued the Harris County Sheriff for the death of her son Danarian Hawkins. Sheriff Ron Hickman is not identified by name in the July 30 lawsuit, but Smith says he is responsible for her son’s suicide as the county’s chief law enforcement officer.
     Smith describes her son’s transition from a happy child to a teenager and adult dogged by mental illness.
     “As a young boy, Danarian was a ray of sunshine in his mother Jacqueline Smith’s life. Danarian was creative; he liked to draw, write songs, and sing. Above all, he loved to make his family and friends laugh, and he was very good at it. … Unfortunately, diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder began to attack Danarian’s mind around the time he turned 15 years old,” the lawsuit states.
     From his late teens into his 20s he was in and out of Harris County Jail, and depressed, sometimes believing his mother could read his thoughts, Smith says.
     “In March 2012, while in the Harris County sheriff’s custody on charges of criminal mischief and misdemeanor theft, defendant’s physician documented that Danarian suffered from schizoaffective disorder, auditory hallucinations, and delusions,” the complaint states.
     While incarcerated, Smith says, her son was prescribed numerous drugs and designated as a suicide risk.
     Smith says after her son was arrested on attempted robbery charges in June 2012 he became intent on suicide and the jail’s staff saw him trying to kill himself three times.
     In one instance, Smith says, guards put him by himself in a cell that contained a smoke detector, and gave him a bedsheet, which are “well-known implements for hanging.” She says her son tried to hang himself but guards stopped him.
     She and other family members wrote letters to then-Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, begging him to put her son in a mental health facility to protect him from himself and ensure he was taking his medicine.
     “The family stressed that Danarian’s father, who also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, had committed suicide while incarcerated,” the lawsuit states.
     But Hawkins was always put back in the jail’s general population after receiving treatment for mental breakdown, Smith says.
     In February 2014, less than a year after Hawkins tried to hang himself, jailers again placed him alone in a cell with a smoke detector and bedsheet.
     “Then defendant’s staff failed to closely or frequently monitor the young man who suffered from delusions and suicidal ideation. Tragically, one of defendant’s guards found Danarian dead – hanging,” the complaint states. He was 27.
     Smith seeks damages for wrongful death and violations of the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act.
     She is represented by Amin Alehashem with the Texas Civil Rights Project in Houston.
     The Harris County Sheriff’s Office did not return a phone message and email seeking comment.

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