Horrific deaths, brutal treatment: Mental illness in America’s jails

Jerome Murdough, a homeless veteran diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, baked to death in a jail cell at Rikers Island in New York after being arrested for trespassing.

David O’Quin was arrested for disturbing the peace in Louisiana. His father pleaded in vain to jail officials for him to be given his medications for severe mental disorders. Less than two weeks later, O’Quin died from a bacterial infection after his own excrement got into cuts that he received from being beaten and put in a restraint chair.

Jennifer Towle was suffering from depression so severe she started eating a nail clipper, milk cartons and other objects while jailed in New Jersey. After she died, an autopsy found about three liters of such material in her stomach.

People with mental illnesses in jails around the country are routinely dying in horrific ways and under preventable circumstances, a Virginian-Pilot investigation has found.

The country’s 3,000-plus jails are the default treatment center for many. There is often nowhere else to take them.

– The Virginian-Pilot

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