Jan 18, 2023 - News

Lawsuit claims Arkansas inmate starved to death in 2021

Illustration of a gavel sticking through the bars of a jail door.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The family of a man who died in the Sebastian County jail in 2021 is accusing the detention center and its medical provider in a wrongful death lawsuit filed last week of allowing him to starve, The Washington Post first reported.

What happened: An autopsy concluded that Larry Price Jr. — a Black man who had paranoid schizophrenia, an intellectual disability and was unhoused — died of acute dehydration and malnutrition, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

  • Price was put in "solitary confinement," and his worsening mental and physical health went unaddressed after he refused antipsychotic medication, the lawsuit claims.
  • Autopsy images show his cheeks sunken and his collarbones and ribs were protruding, The Washington Post reported. The soles of his feet were swollen, white and wrinkled from standing in water in his jail cell.

What they're saying: "Let me make one point clear: the jail staff gave this inmate plenty of food and water every day," Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion said in a statement, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "The jail medical staff were in regular contact with him."

The big picture: The criminal justice system has struggled to address the needs of detainees who have mental health conditions, per The Washington Post.

Background: Price, then 50 years old, was arrested in August 2020 and charged with first-degree terroristic threatening after shouting and cursing at Fort Smith Police Department officers.

  • Price, who was held without trial for a year, had a $1,000 bail, meaning his bond was $100.
  • Yes, but: He couldn't afford the $100 for his own release, The Washington Post reported.

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