Georgia’s prison system will award $2.2 million to the parents of a transgender inmate who committed suicide in her cell in 2017.
According to CNN, a settlement has been reached four years after Jenna Mitchell, 25, died after being unconscious for two days before having her life support turned off.
Mitchell’s parents claimed in a lawsuit filed in 2019 that she was being held in a men’s prison despite having been approved for gender reassignment surgery.
For months, she was a prisoner at the facility, in and out of solitary confinement. She was held in solitary confinement for more than two weeks before she committed suicide on December 4, 2017, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, during Mitchell’s solitary confinement, prison officials informed her that she was “being transferred to the transgender inmate compound.”
Mitchell’s mother had contacted the prison by the end of December after receiving a letter from her daughter stating that she intended to commit suicide.
Mitchell took the threat seriously, according to the lawsuit, because she had a “history of mental illness, was suffering from gender identity issues, and had engaged in a pattern of suicidal and self-harming behaviour.”
Her mother dialled the prison’s phone number and informed the person who answered that her daughter had made a threat and requested to be placed on suicide watch. Mitchell had already been “in medical” for attempting suicide, according to the lawsuit, and the woman claimed she was “fine.”
The warden was notified of the call, according to the lawsuit.
Mitchell told a corrections officer she was about to hang herself while in solitary confinement on Dec. 4. According to the lawsuit, the officer made no attempt to intervene or stop Mitchell from hanging herself.
Mitchell killed herself at home. According to the suit, officers had to travel to and from the medical unit to obtain scissors because they couldn’t find one nearby.
According to the lawsuit, the corrections officer who left Mitchell alone “prepared a false incident report to cover up” the officer’s actions so that he and other staff members would not face discipline, investigation, or lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the warden approved the report despite knowing that it was false.
In 2016, the state Corrections Department launched the first Justice Department investigation into inmate treatment of gay and transgender people.
The Justice Department announced in September that it was reopening its investigation in response to an increase in homicides in Georgia prisons. The investigation, which is expected to last for the foreseeable future, is centred on sexual violence against LGBTQ inmates by other inmates and prison staff.
Mitchell’s parents’ lawyer, David B. Shanies, said in a statement that those responsible for her death should be prosecuted by the state attorney general and the Department of Justice.
“There is no doubt that they should,” he declared categorically.
The damage caused by this horrific event cannot be repaired, even if a record-breaking civil recovery is obtained.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Corrections Department failed to respond to a request for comment. The attorneys for the three prison guards named in the lawsuit did not respond to a request for comment.
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