Family of Cleveland City Jail inmate says officers’ indifference led to preventable suicide

A lawsuit says corrections officers failed to screen the inmate for mental health issues or suicide risks


By Eric Heisig
The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The family of a Cleveland man who took his own life in the now-shuttered City Jail in 2017 said in a lawsuit that corrections officers failed to screen him for mental-health issues.

Jesus Malave Morales, 33, died on Oct. 11, 2017, six days after he hanged himself with a blanket in his cell. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Cleveland on Friday, said corrections officers failed to screen him for mental health issues or suicide risks.

The city closed its jail doors last year as part of a larger effort to centralize housing inmates into the county jail. Similar concerns regarding the county’s ability to tend to inmates with mental-health issues were raised in a U.S. Marshals Service report in November 2018, in the wake of several deaths.

Morales’ family seeks an unspecified amount of damages for violations of his constitutional rights and said Cleveland jail staff was deliberately indifferent to Morales’ mental health needs.

Cleveland spokesman Dan Williams said in an email that the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Morales was arrested on Oct. 5, 2017 after an altercation with his girlfriend. When he was booked into the jail, corrections officers failed to complete the city’s booking form and did not screen or document Morales’ medical and mental-health issues and whether he was or appeared suicidal, according to the lawsuit.

He had a history of suicide attempts and untreated mental-health issues, yet none of the officers who interacted with him documented any symptoms, the lawsuit says.

“All Defendants knew or should have known that Jesus’s mental state placed him at a high risk level for suicide,” the lawsuit says. "Despite Defendants’ knowledge of Jesus Malave Morales’ despondency and risk of injury, they were deliberately indifferent to his risk of suicide.”

Because they didn’t document the issues, they did not put Morales on suicide watch or have mental-health professionals provide care for him. When Morales tied a blanket to a call bar and wrap it upon his neck, fellow inmate yelled for corrections officers but they did not come, the suit alleges.

After officers responded, he was taken to St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. Instead of preserving the blanket Morales used as evidence, officers put it in the laundry bin with other bedding, according to the suit.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko.

©2019 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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