The family of a slain University of Cincinnati student reached an end to their five-year legal struggle against local authorities. The settlement follows after their child had been held in jail for days without access to water prior to dying.
In July 2013, 21-year-old Charles “Chuck” Dewey faced charges of DUI and was taken to a local prison without access to water. Despite his vehement pleas for hydration while in jail due to his preexisting mental health issues, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and substance abuse struggles – none of which were ever addressed – he remained deprived of this essential resource.
On the fourth day of Dewey’s imprisonment, his lifeless body was discovered in his cell and he was quickly brought to a hospital. Unfortunately, it was too late—he succumbed to organ failure due to dehydration only days later. His death was labeled as a homicide upon further investigation; jail staff had disregarded his begging for water and falsified records in an attempt to conceal their negligence.
The Dewey family will receive a payment of $4.85 million and the jail is tasked with implementing reforms, such as alterations to staff training procedures and protocols for monitoring those inmates suffering from mental health issues.
After years of contentious litigation between the Dewey family and regional authorities, a resolution was achieved this week. The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family against the county had been dismissed in 2016; however, they continued to press forward with their civil rights suit until it yielded a settlement this week.
In the face of mounting concerns regarding the mistreatment and abuse of mentally ill inmates in US prisons, a settlement has been reached. A study conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center revealed that individuals suffering from mental illness are disproportionately represented in jails and prisons across America, making them more susceptible to inappropriate treatment than other prisoners.
The Dewey family is expressing their optimism that the settlement has and will continue to spark a transformation in how mentally ill prisoners are treated within the US justice system. As Al Gerhardstein, an attorney for the family stated, “We strongly believe this agreement can make substantial changes in benefiting those incarcerated with mental health issues.” Let us hope they turn out to be right!
This ruling serves as a warning to other correctional centers nationwide that failing to attend to the essential requirements of detainees will not be accepted. “This case is a wake-up call for jails and prisons across the country,” stated Gerhardstein. “Incarcerated individuals have basic human needs that must be met, and neglecting those needs can have tragic consequences.”
With the settlement money, the Dewey family has decided to form a foundation in honor of their son with an aim to better mental health services for those who require it. “We hope that Chuck’s legacy will be one of compassion and kindness, and that this settlement will help to prevent other families from experiencing the same tragedy that we have,” the family statement read.