The Black U.S. Army veteran was in distress, with arresting officers claiming he was eating dirt, removing his shirt and barking like a dog.
He continued to exhibit symptoms of distress once locked behind bars at the David L. Moss Detention Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, telling authorities he wanted to die, notes the report.
Williams died just days later on the floor of a jail cell. Family members, who had not been allowed to visit him, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Tulsa County six years ago, saying he was denied medical and mental health treatment, among a myriad of other charges. The case is scheduled to be heard on February 21.
Williams’ story, both in the days that led up to his death and the years that followed it, tracks a broader story of the treatment of the mentally ill in the nation’s jails. ––The Marshall Project
Indeed, the tale of Williams’ last days begs the question of what’s worse, dying at the hands of police officers before being locked up like Eric Garner, or suffering unspeakable indignities once behind bars like Williams. These are not questions anyone should have to answer, but it is a way of life for many African-Americans who become ensnared in the nation’s criminal justice system, especially those who suffer from any form of mental illness.
From The Marshall Project:
Williams’ story, both in the days that led up to his death and the years that followed it, tracks a broader story of the treatment of the mentally ill in the nation’s jails. First came the failure to train first responders. Next came inept screening by medical staff. Then came the mistreatment by jailers, untrained and unsupervised in the handling of vulnerable inmates. Finally came the cycle of madness and discipline: the more Williams’ guards lashed out at him, the sicker he got, which only made his jailers more frustrated and angry.
And what happened after Williams’ death is also familiar: foot-dragging, cover-up, and nobody held accountable except, perhaps, the taxpayers, when courts award damages.
According to court records and coverage by The Frontier, a Tulsa-based news organization that has doggedly covered the unfolding jail scandal, Williams’ relatives took him on October 21, 2011 to a hotel in Owasso, a northern suburb of Tulsa, because he “was having psychological issues” following a break-up with his wife.
Certainly, it is a fair critique of U.S. public health policy to say jails and prisons are often asked to serve as mental health hospitals, a task most are not equipped to handle. Many citizens of color and veterans with mental disabilities find their way to jail cells instead of treatment centers, and the “treatment” many find is nothing more than solitary confinement.
The United Nations concluded that solitary confinement for more than 15 days is torture, but some U.S. inmates have been in solitary for years. As Black people make up a disproportionate amount of the U.S. criminal justice system, they are more likely to be the victims of these injustices. Without adequate access to healthcare and treatment, mentally ill African-Americans are administered the “medicine” of time behind bars.
In Williams’ case, jail officials tried to use the “qualified immunity” defense, which requires any plaintiff seeking damages to reach a standard of proof that shows that the jailers were “deliberately indifferent” to Williams’ medical needs.
This defense protects police and prison guards in cases of neglect or abuse that are reasonably ambiguous. But U.S. District Judge John Dowdell will allow the Williams family’s case to move forward, saying that “a reasonable jury could find that Mr. Williams’ needs were obvious to any layperson.”
One of the common justifications for horrid stories like Williams’ is that guards receive “inadequate training,” particularly when it comes to handling inmates with mental illnesses. While it likely applies to procedure and protocol, this type of logic begs innumerable questions in cases of clear neglect.
The case is not the first time workers at the jail have been under the glare of the spotlight fo.
In six independent audits between 2007 and 2011, the same jail officials involved in Williams’ case were told about “systemic problems with the way inmates received (or, more precisely, did not receive) medical care inside the jail,” the report says.
Needless to say, family members are looking forward to receiving their day in court.
Joshua Adams is a writer and arts & culture journalist from Chicago. He holds a B.A. in African-American Studies from the University of Virginia and a M.A. in Journalism from the University of Southern California. His writings often explain current and historical cultural phenomena through personal narratives. Follow him on Twitter at @JournoJoshua.
SOURCE: The Marshall Project
64 Black Men And Boys Killed By Police
1. De'Von Bailey, 191 of 64
2. Eric Logan, 542 of 64
3. Jamarion Robinson, 263 of 64
4. Gregory Hill Jr., 304 of 64
5. JaQuavion Slaton, 205 of 64
6. Ryan Twyman, 246 of 64
7. Brandon Webber, 207 of 64
8. Jimmy Atchison, 218 of 64
9. Willie McCoy, 209 of 64
10. Emantic "EJ" Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., 2110 of 64
11. D’ettrick Griffin, 1811 of 64
12. Jemel Roberson, 26Source:false 12 of 64
13. DeAndre Ballard, 23Source:false 13 of 64
14. Botham Shem Jean, 26Source:false 14 of 64
15. Robert Lawrence White, 41Source:false 15 of 64
16. Anthony Lamar Smith, 24Source:Getty 16 of 64
17. Ramarley Graham, 18Source:Getty 17 of 64
18. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31Source:Getty 18 of 64
19. Trayvon Martin, 17Source:Getty 19 of 64
20. Wendell Allen, 20Source:Getty 20 of 64
21. Kendrec McDade, 19Source:Getty 21 of 64
22. Larry Jackson Jr., 32Source:Getty 22 of 64
23. Jonathan Ferrell, 24Source:Getty 23 of 64
24. Jordan Baker, 26Source:Getty 24 of 64
25. Victor White lll, 22Source:Getty 25 of 64
26. Dontre Hamilton, 31Source:Getty 26 of 64
27. Eric Garner, 43Source:Getty 27 of 64
28. John Crawford lll, 22Source:Getty 28 of 64
29. Michael Brown, 18Source:Getty 29 of 64
30. Ezell Ford, 25Source:Getty 30 of 64
31. Dante Parker, 36Source:Getty 31 of 64
32. Kajieme Powell, 25Source:Getty 32 of 64
33. Laquan McDonald, 17Source:Getty 33 of 64
34. Akai Gurley, 28Source:Getty 34 of 64
35. Tamir Rice, 12Source:Getty 35 of 64
36. Rumain Brisbon, 34Source:Getty 36 of 64
37. Jerame Reid, 36Source:Getty 37 of 64
38. Charly Keunang, 43Source:Getty 38 of 64
39. Tony Robinson, 19Source:Getty 39 of 64
40. Walter Scott, 50Source:Getty 40 of 64
41. Freddie Gray, 25Source:Getty 41 of 64
42. Brendon Glenn, 29Source:Getty 42 of 64
43. Samuel DuBose, 43Source:Getty 43 of 64
44. Christian Taylor, 19Source:Getty 44 of 64
45. Jamar Clark, 24Source:Getty 45 of 64
46. Mario Woods, 26Source:Getty 46 of 64
47. Quintonio LeGrier, 19Source:Getty 47 of 64
48. Gregory Gunn, 58Source:Getty 48 of 64
49. Akiel Denkins, 24Source:Getty 49 of 64
50. Alton Sterling, 37Source:Getty 50 of 64
51. Philando Castile, 32Source:Getty 51 of 64
52. Terrence Sterling, 31Source:Getty 52 of 64
53. Terence Crutcher, 40Source:Getty 53 of 64
54. Keith Lamont Scott, 43Source:Getty 54 of 64
55. Alfred Olango, 38Source:Getty 55 of 64
56. Jordan Edwards, 15Source:Getty 56 of 64
57. Stephon Clark, 22Source:false 57 of 64
58. Danny Ray Thomas, 34Source:false 58 of 64
59. DeJuan Guillory, 27Source:false 59 of 64
60. Patrick Harmon, 5060 of 64
61. Jonathan Hart, 2161 of 64
62. Maurice Granton, 2462 of 64
63. Julius Johnson, 2363 of 64
A Mentally Ill Black Veteran’s Death Behind Bars Will Leave You In Tears was originally published on newsone.com