Indiana, USA: Schizophrenic man dies after 20 days in solitary confinement – ​​videos show inhuman prison conditions

A lawsuit against the US state of Indiana has again raised allegations against prison conditions in the USA.

Indiana, USA: Schizophrenic man dies after 20 days in solitary confinement – ​​videos show inhuman prison conditions

A lawsuit against the US state of Indiana has again raised allegations against prison conditions in the USA. Joshua McLemore, then 29, was arrested on July 20, 2021. He died in his cell three weeks later. The cause of death: dehydration and malnutrition.

On Wednesday, his family released new video footage showing McLemore during his incarceration as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit against Jackson County. The lawsuit accuses the local sheriff, prison warden and medical staff of causing McLemore's death through willful indifference, neglect and unconstitutional prison conditions while he was in a state of psychosis, the Guardian, among others, reports.

The footage shows McLemore naked in a small, windowless cell at the Jackson County Jail. The room had no bed or toilet and was lit 24 hours a day. McLemore, who was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia, appears confused in the videos. He utters incoherent sentences and rolls in his own excrement.

According to the lawsuit, he is said to have spent the entire time in solitary confinement. He received his meals through a slot in the cell door, although he is said to have rarely eaten them. He was said to have had human contact only four times in the 20 days leading up to his death, when prison guards forcibly tied him up and dragged him out of the cell to clean or shower him.

McLemore reportedly lost 45 pounds (about 20 kilograms) while in prison. On the video recordings he looks emaciated. According to the indictment, he did not receive medical help.

According to his family, McLemore was a long-time drug addict and struggled with mental illness. Again and again he was in inpatient psychiatric treatment. On the day of his arrest, his mother was worried because he wouldn't answer his phone. So she asked his house manager to check on him. The latter found him naked, confused and huddled in his apartment and called an ambulance.

According to the complaint, McLemore was disoriented and in a "psychotic state" while in the hospital and claimed to have used crystal meth. When a nurse found him on the floor next to his bed and spoke to him, he pulled her hair. A security guard stepped in, told him to go back to bed and called the police.

Four officers arrested him, handcuffed him, and carried him out of the hospital in his underwear. At the detention center, police officers skipped the registration process for newly arriving inmates. McLemore was not medically examined and was instead taken straight to "Padded Cell 7." After unsuccessful attempts to put a gown on him, officers left him naked on a thin blanket on the cell floor, according to the indictment. At this point, too, he seems confused and disoriented. As can be heard in the film recordings, he keeps asking "where am I?"

Although his cell had a door to a toilet, the officers left it locked, the lawsuit continued. The newly released video footage shows McLemore relieving himself in his cell, eating styrofoam covered in feces, spilling food, staring at the cameras, licking the walls and laughing spontaneously over and over again.

On July 25, five days after his arrest, officers opened McLemore's cell for the first time, footage shows. When he came out naked, three officers threw him to the ground and forced him into a restraining device with a tight strap that bound his legs and feet and held his hands behind his back, though he offered little resistance. The lawsuit says he was trapped in the straitjacket for more than four hours.

Two days later, officers entered his cell again, handcuffed him, and strapped him into a wheelchair to take him to the shower. There he was hosed down with water. The videos show two defendants in the case -- Jackson County Sheriff-elect Rick Meyer and prison superintendent Chris Everhart -- standing by. They repeated this process four days later and then left him alone in his cell for eight days.

On August 8th he didn't touch his breakfast or lunch. At around 4:00 p.m., the officers gave him a lemonade, which he was unable to drink without help because he was weak. Although he hardly showed any reactions or moved, no doctor was called. Shortly thereafter, he was again driven to a shower in a wheelchair.

Medical staff were not called until the evening of that day, and they immediately admitted him to a hospital. There, McLemore was found to be suffering from severe dehydration, insufficient oxygenation of body tissues, kidney failure, impaired brain function and other catastrophic health problems, according to the lawsuit.

A plane took him to a special clinic in Ohio, where he fell into a coma and died two days later. A coroner cited "multiple organ failure from refusal to eat or drink with altered mental status from untreated schizophrenia."

Hank Balson, the family's attorney, said: "There was a callous indifference to his humanity and dignity. Some of the conditions Josh faced - constant isolation, his cell was lit 24 hours a day, sleep deprivation - these are things that we associate with torture."

McLemore's death once again sheds light on the medical neglect, especially of the mentally ill, in America's prisons. More than 400,000 people are in US prisons without a conviction.

Lita Ladner, McLemore's aunt, called the prison's treatment "cruel and senseless" in a statement. "Hopefully this lawsuit will force Jackson County and other counties to treat the people in their prisons with humanity - especially people suffering from mental illness."

Sources: The Guardian, USA Today, HuffPost, indictment