Family of inmate who died in NJ prison gets $304K
A lawsuit accused a corrections officer of encouraging the inmate to take his own life
Anthony G. Attrino
N.J. Advance Media Group
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.J. — The family of a New Jersey prison inmate who died by suicide in 2009 after he was allegedly humiliated and encouraged to kill himself when he sought mental health help has settled a lawsuit for more than $304,000, according to court documents.
Robert “Alex” Mullin Jr., 29, died in his cell at South Woods State Prison in Cumberland County on Jan. 17, 2009, according to the federal lawsuit filed by his family. Mullin was an addict with a history of attempts to harm himself and had been identified by a social worker as a “mental health special needs inmate,” according to the suit.
But the prison staff did not do enough to supervise Mullin and one corrections officer berated him when he sought assistance, according to the suit.
New Jersey agreed last year to pay $304,419.25 to Mullin’s estate in a settlement first reported by open public records advocate John Paff on his website. The state did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement.
The suit alleged that a prison nurse failed to write up a suicide assessment despite knowledge of Mullin’s history. State prison policy required high levels of monitoring for inmates such as Mullin, including checking at 15-minute intervals “or constant observation,” according to the suit.
In addition, corrections officers assigned to Mullin’s unit ignored his request for mental health treatment, according to the suit. Other inmates reported that Mullins banged on his cell and told an officer “he wanted to kill himself but was ignored and humiliated” by one of the corrections officers, according to the suit.
“Shut up. You might as well kill yourself," the corrections officer said according to the suit. “There (is) no psych available, so I guess you have to kill yourself.”
Two inmates said they overheard the officer say, “If you want to kill yourself, kill yourself,” the suit states.