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An Alabama jailer left a woman in her own urine and feces, caused her attempted suicide, lawsuit alleges
Now, Racheal Gantt is suing a Jefferson County correctional officer in federal court
Ultimately, that is what allowed Racheal Gantt, an individual on suicide watch, to run upstairs inside the A block of Jefferson County Jail and jump off a balcony, according to a federal lawsuit filed last month.
Gantt survived, the court filing said, but the circumstances that led to her attempted suicide and the severe injuries that followed were entirely preventable.
The suit, filed against Jefferson County Corrections Officer Everett, claims that the jailer refused to provide Gantt new garments after a fentanyl withdrawal led to her vomiting on and using the restroom in her clothing.
The jailer later “consciously disregarded” the risk of attempted suicide involved when she unlocked Gantt’s cell door without another officer outside the cell to supervise her, leading to her attempted suicide.
Such deliberate indifference by the jailer violated federal law, the suit claims.
Lt. Joni Money, a public information officer with the sheriff’s office, refused to comment for this story, citing the ongoing litigation. Money did not respond to additional questions about whether the correctional officer involved has been disciplined or fired.
Racheal Gantt, 38, was arrested on Feb. 4 at the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Center Point, Alabama, records show, and was transported to the Jefferson County Jail.
During her initial booking, Gantt told officers that she was not suicidal but that her best friend had died a few days ago and that she was having “crazy thoughts,” the suit said.
Within two days of that booking, Gantt began to suffer from severe fentanyl withdrawal and “was helpless to keep from throwing up and urinating and defecating on herself,” according to the filing.
By Feb. 7, Gantt said she informed a mental health worker at the jail that she was considering self-harm. Gantt was placed on suicide watch, her suit said, and she was provided a “turtle suit,” a garment made of stiff fabric that is designed not to be useable for self-harm.
That day and into the night, Gantt was unable to control her bodily fluids, the suit alleges, “and repeatedly threw up and went to the bathroom on herself.”
She pushed a call button inside the cell, her lawyers wrote in the federal filing, but no one came.
“Plaintiff was left all night lying in her bodily waste,” the complaint said. “Plaintiff’s mental condition deteriorated further overnight. Her thoughts of suicide became overwhelming.”
The next day, Officer Everett was on duty in A block, according to Gantt’s lawyers. Everett brought a jail trustee to mop the cell but would not provide a new turtle suit to Gantt.
“We can’t give a new suit to everyone that can’t control their bodily fluids,” the lawsuit quotes the officer as saying.
Because of this refusal, Gantt said she was forced “to choose between being completely naked or wearing the turtle suit covered with her vomit, feces, and urine.”
Later that day, Gantt heard the lock on her cell door “pop,” the suit said. According to Gantt’s lawyers, Everett had remotely unlocked Gantt’s cell without another officer outside the door to ensure she would not harm herself or attempt suicide.
“When Defendant opened Plaintiff’s cell door with no corrections officer present outside the door, Plaintiff had the opportunity to go up the stairs to the second tier,” the suit alleges. “Attempting to kill herself, she climbed over the railing and jumped off.”
Gantt jumped over the balcony’s railing, her lawyers claim, resulting in severe injuries and “extreme physical and mental pain and suffering.”
Everett, the officer sued by Gantt, “consciously disregarded” the risk of self-harm when she unlocked Gantt’s cell door, the suit alleges.
“Defendant’s deliberate indifference was the proximate cause and cause in fact of the injuries Plaintiff suffered, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of function,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages as well as any “injunctive relief as necessary to… prevent the recurrence of the harms alleged.”
Gantt is represented by the law firm Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher, & Goldfarb, which is also representing the family of Anthony “Tony” Mitchell, a man who died of hypothermia while in the custody of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office. That office has denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Everett, the officer named as a defendant in Gantt’s suit, has until June 16 to respond to the complaint’s allegations in court. Efforts by Tread to reach the officer were unsuccessful as of this writing.
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