‘60 Minutes’ investigates death of Michigan inmate
JACKSON (AP): A Michigan prisoner who died after spending four days naked and shackled in an isolated cell the size of a walk-in closet had been strapped down onto a concrete slab for 17 straight hours, according to a “60 Minutes” report aired Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007.
The TV news program investigated the Aug. 6 death of Timothy Joe Souders and questioned the plight of the about 300,000 other mentally ill inmates being held in U.S. prisons.
60 Minutes said Thursday it discovered the period of restraint—and two others of 16 and 12 hours—after reviewing time-coded prison-surveillance video.
The show also learned that a nurse at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson, where Souders was an inmate, was dismissed after his death for failing to recognize his dire condition.
An autopsy determined that Souders died accidentally of hyperthermia and dehydration. The Michigan Department of Corrections said its internal investigation turned up evidence of work-rule violations by the nurse and by a physician’s assistant who saw the inmate.
The physician’s assistant was not fired.
A telephone message seeking comment on the 60 Minutes report was left Thursday at the Department of Corrections.
Corrections Director Patricia Caruso told the news program that she could not comment specifically about the Souders case because of a pending wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his mother, but said prisoners were restrained to protect themselves and others around them.
Souders, 21, of Adrian, was serving one to four years for resisting arrest, assault and destroying police property. He took medicine for manic-depression, psychosis and hypertension, and attempted suicide three times while a prisoner, according to the 60 Minutes report.
On Aug. 2, 2006, he was taken to the isolation cell because of unruly behavior, state prison officials said. He was naked, his arms and legs were bound in shackles, and he often lay in his own urine.
When he was bound for 17 straight hours, that was 15 hours longer than the policy in place at the time.
Souders died Aug. 6, two hours after prison workers removed his restraints.
In November, U.S. District Judge Richard Enslen ordered the state to stop using the kind of restraints used on Souders and also reopened federal monitoring of the mental health care of Michigan inmates.