Arkansas Man Dies of Malnutrition and Dehydration in Jail; He Couldn’t Afford $100 Bail
The family of a mentally disabled man, who died of malnourishment and dehydration in an Arkansas solitary confinement cell, is suing over the man’s death. 50-year-old Larry Eugene Price Jr. had intellectual developmental disorder, PTSD and other mental health issues. His IQ was about 50 and he was frequently homeless and arrested for disturbance charges related to his mental condition.
According to Newsweek, Price frequently wandered into Fort Smith, Arkansas police station where he would usually hang out and then leave. But one day, the unarmed Price used his finger like a gun to point at officers, threatening and cursing at them. The officers couldn’t calm the agitated Price and allegedly for his wellbeing, arrested him on a state felony – terroristic threatening in the first degree. They also agreed that Price was no immediate threat. Once locked up, Price went before a judge who set bond at $1,000. But the man was too poor to free himself with $100 for bail.
Price never sat trial on the charges. Instead, the 6 foot 2 inch Price, who was about 200 pounds when he was detained languished inside the Sebastian County Detention Center for a year. In that time, Price lost 100 pounds and looked, according to the lawsuit, like a famine victim- weighing just 90 pounds with a “morbidly skeletal appearance.”
His brother, Rodney Price, is now suing Sebastian County, the healthcare corporation providing medical services to inmates in the jail Turn Key Health Clinics, LLC, a Turn Key psychiatrist and nurse, and other unnamed defendants.
According to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the lawsuit alleges that when Price refused to take his antipsychotic medication, a Turn Key psychiatrist discontinued his prescription and the psychiatrist “never made any effort to follow up with Mr. Price or to address his serious mental health needs.” Price allegedly reported to jail medical staff, “I am sick and have lost a lot of weight[.] I need to see a doctor,” but because he was described as being “non-compliant,” no appointment ever happened. Price was placed in solitary confinement and a Turn Key nurse was informed the man was eating his own bodily wastes, but still he was denied medical treatment.
An attorney for the Price family, Erik Heipt, told Newsweek, “He was not serving a sentence. He was awaiting trial the whole time — for a crime that he wasn't mentally capable of committing.”
Price’s aunt, Beverly Ann Releford said she tried several times to see her nephew in lockup, but was turned away. She was never told that it would take only $100 to release him, and she was never told that the reason she was denied was because Price wasn’t able to fill out the paperwork to list her as a visitor. She said to Newsweek, "They could have told me...I would have given up $100 to get him out of there so he didn't pass away like he did."
The lawsuit requests a trial by jury, arguing Price’s 14th Amendment rights, specifically his right to medical and mental health treatment, was denied.