Open Accessibility Menu

Case Study of Three Jail Deaths Shows Neglect in Human Rights

Steve Wagner


  • In the past decade, over 10,000 inmates have lost their lives in both city and county jails and have had their human rights and personal freedoms stripped from them.
  • Many of the deaths are attributed to sickness or disease of some kind, while too many others are the result of negligence or abuse from prison guards or other inmates.
  • We have collected a review of three Indiana jail and prison death cases the legal team at Wagner Reese has represented.
  • Whether these deaths were the result of inadequate or insufficient health care or mistreatment, these men and this woman did not deserve to lose their lives, and now their families are left to suffer in their absence.

Human Rights Most Often Disregarded in Jail and Prison Death Cases

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the past decade, over 10,000 inmates have lost their lives in both city and county jails. And reports from the Indiana Department of Corrections say that the average number of deaths in our county jails each year is between eight and twelve. We would argue that many of those deaths could have been prevented with proper care and supervision, and correctional facilities have a duty to their inmates to ensure the safety of those in their charge.

We thought it was important to show our readers that for those who have lost their lives in jail or prison, human rights are often violated. These are a few jail and prison death cases where Wagner Reese attorneys had to understand the complexities of federal civil rights litigation and plead a case for the family and loved ones left to suffer and seek out answers and demand that the responsible parties were held accountable.

A young man, who had a history of alcohol abuse and was going through alcohol withdrawal, had progressed to full-blown delirium tremens (DTs) and was to be monitored every 15 minutes around the clock at a central Indiana county jail. Jail surveillance video confirmed that he was left alone and without medication for long periods of time during his 72-hour detention. By the time emergency medical personnel were called, he had already progressed into a coma and died shortly thereafter. Despite the fact that the young man was not married and had no children, the settlement was well above the state tort damage cap of $300,000 applicable in negligence actions, indicating strong evidence of federal civil rights violations under Section 1983 which are not subject to the state damage cap. A $950,000 settlement was awarded for his family.

Our team facilitated the $500,000 settlement for the family of a woman who hanged herself while in a southwestern Indiana jail for a minor alcohol offense, resulting in fatal injuries. Sadly, the deceased left behind young children, and the jail staffing and monitoring was brought into question, as the deceased was still alive when found, but had been left unattended for too long which resulted in irreversible injuries which caused the death.

A man was arrested for public intoxication but while detained in a holding cell, the man began to experience alcohol withdrawal which progressed to delirium tremens (DTs), a medical emergency. The man had a seizure, and the poorly trained jailers then forcibly restrained him instead of calling for medical attention. The physical restraint included being handcuffed with his arms behind his back, which caused our client to go into cardiac arrest and contributed to his unfortunate death. These actions were alleged to be violations of our client’s civil rights, including his rights afforded under the Fourteenth Amendment. The case was settled after we conducted extensive discovery into the training practices of the jail. As part of the settlement, the jail instituted new training policies which will reduce the chance of this happening again. A $425,000 settlement was awarded for the family of a man who died.

Wrongful Death Cases

If your loved one has suffered injury or death in an Indiana jail or prison, the wrongful death attorneys at Wagner Reese can assist you in recovering financial damages for the losses you have sustained. Contact us now at (888) 204-8440 to schedule an appointment in our Indianapolis or Carmel offices, or use our convenient, confidential contact form.


Request Your Free Case Evaluation

Fill out the form below to get started or give us a call at (888) 204-8440 to speak with our legal team directly.

  • Please enter your First Name.
  • Please enter your Last Name.
  • This isn't a valid phone number.
    Please enter your phone number.
    You entered an invalid number.
  • This isn't a valid email address.
    Please enter your email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.

Our Locations

  • Indianapolis Office: 201 N. Illinois St.,
    16th Floor - South Tower

    Indianapolis, IN 46204
  • Carmel Office: 11939 N. Meridian St.
    Carmel, IN 46032
  • Evansville Office: 815 John St. Suite 110
    Evansville, IN 47713
  • Fort Wayne Office: 3201 Stellhorn Rd
    Fort Wayne, IN 46815
  • Champaign Office: 701 Devonshire Dr., Suite C17
    Champaign, IL 61820