Locked in Suffering; Kentucky's jails and the mentally ill — (Louisville Courier-Journal)

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The Louisville Courier-Journal

February 25, 2002


Suicide watch and medication were not enough

Inmate: Kevin Shockley, 39, of Scottsville

Jail: Allen County Detention Center, Scottsville

Date of death: March 10, 1999

Jail records say that Kevin Shockley was put on suicide watch when he was booked into the Allen County Detention Center and that he was later seen by a psychologist and by a physician, who prescribed an antidepressant for him.

Shockley remained on the watch for about a month during his 4-1/2-months in jail, according to Jailer James Patrick.

Patrick declined to answer specific questions about the suicide watch because the jail has been sued over Shockley’s death.

He did say that Shockley gave no indication that he would kill himself.

What is clear from the available jail records, obtained under the state Open Records Act, is that Shockley spoke of his anxiety and depression while in the jail.

He was jailed on Oct. 29, 1998, after being arrested on two counts of attempted murder for allegedly shooting his wife and a man outside Allen County-Scottsville High School.

On Shockley’s booking form, the question,  “Does the inmate’s behavior suggest the risk of suicide?” is answered affirmatively. The form also noted that Shockley said he was taking his wife’s medication for  “nerves.”

Shockley was put on suicide watch because of the seriousness of the charges against him, a deputy jailer later said a statement. Scottsville police Detective Don Rutheford said that as far as he knew, Shockley had no criminal record.

About a month into his stay, on Dec. 1, Shockley wrote a request for medical attention:  “Have spells where my mind want (sic) stop racing. . . . Past three weeks, (asthma) attacks have worsened. I don’t think it’s the asthma as much as it is my head/mind bringing it all on.”

Shockley’s attorney, Brad Coffman, said that at his request, a psychologist saw his client at the jail. That was on Dec. 9, and on Dec. 29, also at the request of the lawyer, Shockley was seen by the jail’s doctor. The doctor prescribed Celexa, a drug for depression, jail records say.  A jail log says Shockley received one dose daily from Jan. 1, 1999, until he died on March 10, 1999.

In a written statement, deputy jailer Tony Buck recalled taking Shockley to see his mother, who was ill.

“I do remember when I took him to the hospital to see his mother before she passed away that he said, `I wish the good Lord would just take me out.’ But I did not take that as an intent for Mr. Shockley to harm himself,” Buck wrote after the suicide.

Buck also wrote that as time passed, Shockley  “seemed to be getting into better spirits.”

Statements from Buck and several cellmates said Shockley seemed to be fine the night before and the day of his death.

But in statements written after the suicide, two of Shockley’s cellmates reported that Shockley had talked about harming himself in the weeks leading up to his death.

One said Shockley had talked the week before about using a razor to cut his wrists.

Another inmate said that about a month earlier, Shockley  “asked me if I would slip him a razor blade.”

“I really didn’t think he was serious about it,” the inmate said.

Both inmates said they did not mention these incidents to the jail staff.

On the afternoon of March 10, 1999, while most of his cellmates were out on work-release jobs, Shockley hanged himself in his cell’s shower, jail records say.

Shockley’s wife, Paulette, filed a lawsuit in Allen Circuit Court in April 2000 alleging that the jail and Patrick, who are among several defendants in the suit, knew or should have known that Shockley was  “depressed and/or suicidal” and were negligent in permitting him to be  “alone and unwatched.”

In their response, Patrick and the other defendants denied the allegations. The suit is pending.

Shockley spoke of his anxiety and depression during his time at the Allen County jail.