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
83 Black Men And Boys Killed By Police
1. David McAtee1 of 83
2. Natosha “Tony” McDade2 of 83
3. George Floyd3 of 83
4. Yassin Mohamed4 of 83
5. Finan H. Berhe5 of 83
6. Sean ReedSource:Twitter 6 of 83
7. Steven Demarco TaylorSource:S. Lee Merritt 7 of 83
8. Ariane McCreeSource:The Herald/YouTube 8 of 83
9. Terrance Franklin9 of 83
10. Miles HallSource:KRON4 10 of 83
11. Darius TarverSource:S. Lee Merritt 11 of 83
12. William Green12 of 83
13. Samuel David Mallard, 1913 of 83
14. Kwame "KK" Jones, 17Source:facebook 14 of 83
15. De’von Bailey, 1915 of 83
16. Christopher Whitfield, 3116 of 83
17. Anthony Hill, 2617 of 83
18. De'Von Bailey, 1918 of 83
19. Eric Logan, 5419 of 83
20. Jamarion Robinson, 2620 of 83
21. Gregory Hill Jr., 3021 of 83
22. JaQuavion Slaton, 2022 of 83
23. Ryan Twyman, 2423 of 83
24. Brandon Webber, 2024 of 83
25. Jimmy Atchison, 2125 of 83
26. Willie McCoy, 2026 of 83
27. Emantic "EJ" Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., 2127 of 83
28. D’ettrick Griffin, 1828 of 83
29. Jemel Roberson, 26Source:false 29 of 83
30. DeAndre Ballard, 23Source:false 30 of 83
31. Botham Shem Jean, 26Source:false 31 of 83
32. Robert Lawrence White, 41Source:false 32 of 83
33. Anthony Lamar Smith, 24Source:Getty 33 of 83
34. Ramarley Graham, 18Source:Getty 34 of 83
35. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31Source:Getty 35 of 83
36. Trayvon Martin, 17Source:Getty 36 of 83
37. Wendell Allen, 20Source:Getty 37 of 83
38. Kendrec McDade, 19Source:Getty 38 of 83
39. Larry Jackson Jr., 32Source:Getty 39 of 83
40. Jonathan Ferrell, 24Source:Getty 40 of 83
41. Jordan Baker, 26Source:Getty 41 of 83
42. Victor White lll, 22Source:Getty 42 of 83
43. Dontre Hamilton, 31Source:Getty 43 of 83
44. Eric Garner, 43Source:Getty 44 of 83
45. John Crawford lll, 22Source:Getty 45 of 83
46. Michael Brown, 18Source:Getty 46 of 83
47. Ezell Ford, 25Source:Getty 47 of 83
48. Dante Parker, 36Source:Getty 48 of 83
49. Kajieme Powell, 25Source:Getty 49 of 83
50. Laquan McDonald, 17Source:Getty 50 of 83
51. Akai Gurley, 28Source:Getty 51 of 83
52. Tamir Rice, 12Source:Getty 52 of 83
53. Rumain Brisbon, 34Source:Getty 53 of 83
54. Jerame Reid, 36Source:Getty 54 of 83
55. Charly Keunang, 43Source:Getty 55 of 83
56. Tony Robinson, 19Source:Getty 56 of 83
57. Walter Scott, 50Source:Getty 57 of 83
58. Freddie Gray, 25Source:Getty 58 of 83
59. Brendon Glenn, 29Source:Getty 59 of 83
60. Samuel DuBose, 43Source:Getty 60 of 83
61. Christian Taylor, 19Source:Getty 61 of 83
62. Jamar Clark, 24Source:Getty 62 of 83
63. Mario Woods, 26Source:Getty 63 of 83
64. Quintonio LeGrier, 19Source:Getty 64 of 83
65. Gregory Gunn, 58Source:Getty 65 of 83
66. Akiel Denkins, 24Source:Getty 66 of 83
67. Alton Sterling, 37Source:Getty 67 of 83
68. Philando Castile, 32Source:Getty 68 of 83
69. Terrence Sterling, 31Source:Getty 69 of 83
70. Terence Crutcher, 40Source:Getty 70 of 83
71. Keith Lamont Scott, 43Source:Getty 71 of 83
72. Alfred Olango, 38Source:Getty 72 of 83
73. Jordan Edwards, 15Source:Getty 73 of 83
74. Stephon Clark, 22Source:false 74 of 83
75. Danny Ray Thomas, 34Source:false 75 of 83
76. DeJuan Guillory, 27Source:false 76 of 83
77. Patrick Harmon, 5077 of 83
78. Jonathan Hart, 2178 of 83
79. Maurice Granton, 2479 of 83
80. Julius Johnson, 2380 of 83
81. Jamee Johnson, 22Source:S. Lee Merritt 81 of 83
82. Michael Dean, 28Source:S. Lee Merritt 82 of 83
A Mentally Ill Black Veteran’s Death Behind Bars Will Leave You In Tears was originally published on newsone.com