Surveillance Tape: TS' Restraint and Death
This video documents the four days that TS, a mentally ill 21-year-old Michigan prisoner, spent shackled to a cement slab as punishment for flooding his segregation cell during a heat wave in August 2006. Much of the time, the segregation log indicates that he was screaming. He ate and drank little during those four days, and he was not taking his psychotropic medication. He received no meaningful medical or mental care while in segregation. A physician saw him once (not shown on the video), but simply examined the sores on TS' wrists caused by the restraints; he did not even take vital signs. The video shows the sores on TS' back resulting from staff's failure to intervene when he was lying in his own waste. At the end of the four days, as shown on the video, a nurse went to TS' cell and took vital signs, reporting that he had a "faint pulse." Notwithstanding that finding, the nurse left TS to die in his cell. The autopsy found that he died from hyperthermia, with dehydration as a contributing factor. At the time of TS' death, the prison had been operating with no on-site psychiatric services for the 1400 prisoners since May 2006.
This video is an edited compilation from 60 hours of tape from two sources. The black and white shots come from the overhead still camera in the two observation cells where TS was held. The color shots were taken by correctional staff when they were in the cell interacting with TS. The National Prison Project of the ACLU showed a longer version of this video in federal court in Michigan in October 2006. As a result of this and other evidence presented by the NPP, the federal judge reversed his previous ruling in 2001 that mental health care in the prison met constitutional standards. The judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the use of mechanical restraints outside of a medical setting, and ordered the state to develop a plan to add mental health staff, conduct daily mental health rounds in segregation, and coordinate medical and mental health care. As another direct result of this case, the Governor, bowing to public pressure, ordered an investigation into medical care throughout the prison system.60 Minutes: The Plight of the Mentally Ill Behind Bars
On February 11, 60 Minutes aired a segment on TS.
Watch the Episode >>
Update: JMF, the Michigan prison where TS died, has long been notorious for its failure to provide necessary health care to the large numbers of chronically ill and elderly prisoners that it houses. The death of TS was one unnecessary death among many brought to the attention of the federal judge assigned to the case, Richard A. Enslen. As a result of the case, the judge has ordered far-reaching reforms that have yet to be implemented at JMF.
Following the 60 Minutes broadcast on February 11, the Michigan Department of Corrections announced plans to close JMF. The ACLU is concerned that the Department of Corrections is using the closure of this particular facility in order to move Michigan's sickest prisoners away from the protection of the federal court. As a result, we requested an order to make certain that sick prisoners would be evaluated and sent to other prisons that could address their health needs before these helpless men leave the court's protection. Judge Enslen granted that request and gave the Department of Corrections 45 days to prepare the necessary plan.