A man from CNY prison commits suicide, buried without his family’s knowledge. They win a $1.5 million lawsuit

Marcy, NY – The family of an inmate who died by suicide at a Central New Work prison has been awarded $1.5 million after a wrongful death lawsuit against the state.

In May 2016, the father of 22-year-old Lonnie Lamont Hamilton, an inmate at Marcy Correctional Institution, was worried. He hadn’t heard from his son since Christmas 2015 and wanted to see him.

Hamilton’s sister and aunt went to check inmate records with the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). To their surprise, Hamilton was listed as deceased. No one had informed his family.

Lonnie Lamont Hamilton, of the Bronx, died by hanging on March 18, 2016, in the Special Housing Unit at Marcy Correctional Facility, according to court documents filed with the New York State Court of Claims. The medium-security prison, which houses about 1,600 inmates, is about 7 miles north of Utica.

A day after his death, Hamilton was buried on the prison grounds in a plywood box, according to court documents. Her family learned of her death about two months later when they checked online.

Over the next few years, as the family filed a lawsuit against the prison, more details emerged that revealed correctional officers were guilty of the 22-year-old’s untimely death, according to a decision of a judge who heard the case.

‘Neglectful supervision was a significant factor in Lonnie’s death,’ judge’s ruling says Last week.

Hamilton was serving a prison sentence for third-degree robbery. He was sentenced to two to six years, a term he began in January 2015.

It was immediately clear, based on his answers on the prison admission forms, that he had a history of self-harm and suicidal ideation, according to the judge’s ruling.

“On a form titled Suicide Prevention Screening Reception/Guidelines,” the judge said in the decision, “it is noted that Lonnie once attempted suicide by hanging and felt he had nothing to do. hope.”

Hamilton was transferred to Marcy Correctional Center in February 2016, according to court documents. He was immediately committed to the special housing unit, a kind of solitary confinement, to serve a 45-day disciplinary sentence.

SHU inmates are only released for one hour of recreation per day, the rest of their time is spent in solitary confinement.

After Hamilton threatened to self-harm, a representative from the state Office of Mental Health conducted a suicide risk assessment. The representative determined he was a risk and transferred him to a mental health facility at another correctional facility, as per the judge’s decision.

Although he told counselors at the facility he would kill himself if he returned to Marcy, he was transferred in March on February 22, 2016, the judge said.

On March 15, Hamilton was placed on suicide watch after he again threatened to harm himself, the judge heard. On March 16, Hamilton was removed from the watch.

Two days later, he hanged himself.

On the day Hamilton died, a corrections officer observed him standing on his bed at 11 a.m., according to the officer’s testimony. The officer did not speak to Hamilton.

About 24 minutes later, when the officer checked the cell again, Hamilton was hanging from a ceiling vent with a sheet tied around his neck.

The officer did not immediately attend to Hamilton, according to his testimony. He called the inmate’s name and called another correctional officer when Hamilton didn’t answer, he told the court.

Both officers observed that Hamilton’s feet appeared to be touching the bed and the floor and his hand was clenched into a fist. The two men decided not to enter the cell, fearing it was a trap, they said.

Officers called a sergeant who immediately ordered them to go inside and remove Hamilton from the bed sheet and take life-saving action, the judge said in the ruling.

During the trial, Hamilton’s family called a former deputy director of programs for the New York City Department of Corrections, Francis Rosato-Maurino, as an expert witness to comment on the corrections officers’ actions.

She testified that correctional officers breached the applicable standard of care by not immediately entering the cell and helping Hamilton even though they believed he was faking the incident.

The judge found that the state was liable for Hamilton’s pain, suffering and death due to negligent supervision.

As a result, Hamilton’s father was awarded $1.1 million as reasonable compensation for his son’s conscious pain and suffering prior to his death.

The clam court also ruled that prison administrators failed to take appropriate steps to notify the family of their loved one’s death. The facility’s chaplain, responsible for contacting the family, was unable to reach them by phone, but never sent them a letter or contacted local law enforcement to contact them.

By burying Hamilton without exhausting all methods of family contact, the prison violated the right of burial, which the law describes as the right to choose and control the burial of a deceased person.

Hamilton’s father was awarded an additional $400,000 due to the emotional damage he suffered for witnessing his son’s body being exhumed because they were not given the opportunity to bury him properly.

The lawsuit also filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but that action was dismissed. That claim was denied because the family could not prove they suffered financial loss as a result of the complaint, according to court documents.

The family’s attorney, Zachary Giampa of Giampa Law, said such cases are rarely won and praised the court for forcing the state to face some responsibility for the safety of detainees.

Hamilton’s body was removed from the prison grounds and he had a funeral held with a closed casket in his hometown of the Bronx.

Lonnie Lamont Hamilton, of the Bronx, died by hanging in the Special Housing Unit at Marcy Correctional Facility on March 18, 2016. Photo provided

Editor Anne Hayes covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Any advice, an idea for an article, a question or a comment? You can reach her at [email protected].

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