Woman prisoner hangs self, then sues prison
April 4, 2002 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Woman prisoner hangs self, then sues prison Suicide note found near body tells her lawyer to sue the prison for not preventing her suicide.
posted by Lanternjmk (16 comments total)
There's nothing in this article that indicates any lawsuit has or will be filed. It only says she left a note asking that her lawyer file one.

She couldn't sue herself anyway, having surrendered her Darwinian rights. At best, someone else could sue on behalf of her kids.
posted by aaron at 6:42 AM on April 4, 2002

But she could and did testify, and if a lawsuit was her last wish, her family almost certainly will sue. It's a tricky one -- could go either way. I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up with a hung jury, too.
posted by pracowity at 6:49 AM on April 4, 2002

I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up with a hung jury, too.

posted by machaus at 6:51 AM on April 4, 2002

Wouldn't this qualify as entrapment?
posted by riffola at 6:54 AM on April 4, 2002

That'll show 'em.
posted by NortonDC at 7:08 AM on April 4, 2002

riffola, as a legal matter, only the government can technically "entrap" someone. So while the simple fact that she set it up wouldn't necessarily preclude any legal claim, as a practical matter I think the premeditation of her decision would make it pretty much impossible for any lawsuit to prevail.

And while I know she can't hear me, here's my advice to this lady: call me crazy, but if you really wanted to "help your kids," you probably shouldn't have murdered their father and tried to bury him in a vineyard.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:12 AM on April 4, 2002

Geez. . .for some reason this one just pushed me over the edge this morning. . .you can only read about so much abject misery before it gets to you.

I feel so badly for her kids. There are all sorts of Darwin Award jokes, or Suicide Girl jokes that could be made but this just does not strike me as funny. . .
posted by Danf at 7:27 AM on April 4, 2002

For me, the creepiest part of the story is the fact we're outsourcing imprisonment to companies like the "Corrections Corporation of America.
posted by rcade at 7:36 AM on April 4, 2002

Prisons have occasionally been successfully sued for negligence in some states for not placing people that they knew to be suicidal on a suicide watch. However, the fact that the prisoner ultimately caused her own death will usually greatly reduce the damages or preclude damages altogether (depending on the state's tort law).

Before everyone rushes to condemn the tort system and the litigiousness of American society etc etc, just bear in mind that this article doesn't provide nearly enough facts to make an intelligent judgment about whether she has a case or not.

Some of the things we would need to know before making an intelligent judgment include:
how much did the prison know about her mental state?
how carefully does the prison evaluate the mental states' of their prisoners generally?
was the woman suffering from some kind of mental illness?
if she was mentally ill, did the prison provide her with proper medication to treat it? (prisons often refuse to provide prisoners with antidepresents on the theory that they SHOULD be depressed)
was this prison's practices similar to those of other prisons in the state or around the country?
were the individual guards in charge of her negligent or incompetent?
does this prison have a history of prisoners commiting suicide?

so, for those of you reflexively criticizing this women, what if it turned out that the woman had a history of suicide attempts, the prison was aware of this, the prison psycologist had repeatedly asked the warden to put the woman on a suicide watch, and the warden had refused, saying that he hoped she WOULD commit suicide?
posted by boltman at 7:50 AM on April 4, 2002

rcade: what's really creepy is that in America, imprisoning people is Big Business. These are mega-billion-dollar companies... and they are purchasing politicians and lawmakers.

It's part of the reason the US will never decriminalize marijuana: jailing people for possession pays too well.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:07 AM on April 4, 2002

pardonyou?, thanks for explaining that.
posted by riffola at 9:14 AM on April 4, 2002

This is a getting a bit of topic, but to add to what five fresh fish said...

There is a long tradition in Western society of prisons-as-business, beginning with the failed workhouses (which were supposedly there to help the poor, but basically had all the characteristices of prisons) of Britain in the 1830s and 40s.

There will never be a reduction in jails as a for-profit enterprise until people start advocating for prisoners to receive decent wages, protection from assault, including sexual assault, and humane sanitary conditions. People make mistakes and end up in prison, but that doesn't make them slaves to live in filth, get beaten up and raped and work for pennies a day to the financial benefit of some corporation.
posted by rbellon at 9:56 AM on April 4, 2002

Humane conditions - yes
Physical safety - yes

Decent wage - not so fast.

I believe that in the US prison work is typically voluntary, done merely for something to do or as training for employment after prison. In such circumstances work is a privilege no matter how much immediate monetary compensation is involved.
posted by NortonDC at 11:45 AM on April 4, 2002

Hmmm... back to the story. From everything I've read this woman was a lifelong grifter who wasn't a stranger with incarceration. Here's her suicide note.

Interesting look into a criminal mind.
posted by xena at 5:41 PM on April 4, 2002

Settle turns around, opens a notebook, takes out a piece of ragged paper, scribles something out, writes something in the margin, puts paper back in notebook, closes notebook, puts jacket on, picks up manilla folder holding around 30 sheets of paper mockups covered in transparent tape and lines of text, held together with a 2" wide clamp, puts that in his bag, goes to kinkos to finish his ZINE
posted by Settle at 7:13 PM on April 4, 2002

Voluntary work in prisons is unfair to those who have to compete against their free labour.

And I'm not so big on the "humane conditions" aspect, either. It's pretty easy to start arguing that "humane" necessarily includes a putting green, television lounge, and after-hour cocktails.

Prison is punative - or, at least, was at one time.

Of course, it can't be very punative at all when it's choc-a-bloc full of people who haven't actually done anything wrong. Save imprisonment for those cause harm to other's person or property, and get rid of the endless silly-ass victimless "crimes."
posted by five fresh fish at 7:17 PM on April 4, 2002

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