Wednesday, June 8, 2011

20-Year-Old Utah Man Starves to Death in Prison

Inmate was Seriously Mentally Ill

The Salt Lake City Tribune recently reported that a young prisoner apparently suffering from serious mental illness died of starvation and dehydration after spending four months in the Salt Lake County Jail. A significant period of his incarceration was spent in restrictive housing otherwise known as solitary confinement. Carlos Umana, 20, weighed approximately 180 pounds when he entered the jail in October 2010; when he died in February, he weighed just 77 pounds. Tests showed that none of his prescribed psychiatric drugs were in his system at the time of his death, reported Solitary Watch.

Tammy Martinez, Umana's mother, was allowed to see nit long before his death. From the other side of the protective glass, Martinez said she could tell Umana was in trouble. He was thin, his eyes were sunken and he had trouble holding up his head. He said something about the water in the jail being too hot, reported Solitary Watch.

“He says, ‘Mom, I need to get out of here. I won’t make it in here,’ ” Martinez recalled.

A jail employee called Martinez the next day to ask how the visit went. Martinez told her Umana was not well. Martinez said she assumed the jail would take care of the problem. Meanwhile, Umana’s court case was delayed while the judge and the attorneys waited for results from a mental health professional about whether Umana was competent to stand trial. The results of that review have not been made public, reported Solitary Watch.

Umana dies with in days. The medical examiner ruled the manner of death was natural causes due to starvation and dehydration, but the medical examiner listed Umana’s mental illness as a likely contributing factor.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff told the Tribune that the jail would be revising its policies on when to commence forcefully feeding or medicating inmates. No legal action had been taken.

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