Mother suing Harris County Sheriff’s Office after disabled son commits suicide in jail

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HOUSTON – It’s another day and another jailhouse suicide to talk about.

The mother of a man who hanged himself in the Harris County jail last year is suing the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, claiming jailers didn’t do enough to keep her son alive.

The federal lawsuit says 27-year-old Danarian Hawkins suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and that he had been in jail for about 18 months waiting to be tried for robbery when he hanged himself in his cell in February 2014.

The suit says jailers knew he tried to kill himself three times after his arrest in June of 2013, but still put him in his cell alone with a sheet and a smoke detector on the ceiling.

Amin Alehashem is an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project-Houston. “For example, if someone is known to be suicidal, they will put them in cells that have hooks that are, you know, plastic, that won’t hold, right. There are special sheets that you can use that don’t tie. They won’t have tie-off points.”

Hawkins’ mother, Jacqueline Smith, is asking for unspecified compensation and a change in the way Harris County handles individuals like her son.

“They need to pay more attention. And sometimes it seems like it’s just a job, you know, for them. And you know, put empathy, you know, personalize it.”

The sheriff’s office did not have a comment on this case that the Texas Civil Rights Project-Houston says could end up including judges who should have protected Hawkins under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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