An Alabama prison official testified in federal court yesterday that a now-dead prisoner was placed on mental health observation, rather than suicide watch, despite a previous attempt to kill himself.
Warden Cynthia Stewart of Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore also testified that the inmate did not receive wellness checks as frequently as a court order demanded.
In late February, inmate Billy Thornton fell and hit his head after attempting to hang himself from the light fixture in his cell. He died four days later. The Alabama Department of Corrections says it’s investigating as to whether Thornton’s death was a suicide. Stewart says she considers the death an accident, since Thornton fell.
Stewart also testified that she wasn’t aware of Thornton’s previous suicide attempt just two months earlier.
This testimony comes amid an ongoing lawsuit from 2014 alleging inadequate health care in Alabama’s prison system. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled last year that mental health care in state prisons was “horrendously inadequate”.