Michigan Jailers Ignore Suicidal Inmate’s Pleas for Help

Shortly before attempting to hang herself at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, 25-year-old inmate Janika Edmond asked prison guards for a suicide prevention vest, a restrictive smock with Velcro used to prevent someone from being able to hurt themselves. State corrections officers Dianna Callahan and Kory Moore ignored her plea for help.

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Instead, the officers began talking between themselves about a bet they had placed on when Edmond would ask for a vest. Callahan won the bet, so she began taunting Moore about how she now owed her a Subway sandwich. Callahan can be heard on security video at the prison, shouting “Somebody owes me lunch.”

Edmond strapped a bra around her neck and tried to hang herself from a shower head. The weight of Edmond’s body on the shower head caused the bra to break. She fell to the floor and hit the back of her head. Several moments passed before the guards noticed Edmond in a pool of blood, dying. Her choking sounds can be heard on a prison video feed. Inmates’ pleas for help can also be heard. Eventually, Edmond was rushed to the hospital. Four days later, she was determined brain dead.

Nobody from Huron Valley Correctional Facility attempted to reach Edmond’s family. The woman’s father told State Police investigators he was unaware that his daughter had attempted suicide or even that she’d been hospitalized until after he showed up at the prison trying to visit her several days later.

After learning about the incident in a local news report, the Michigan State Police launched a criminal investigation into Edmond’s death. Last month, Callahan was charged with involuntary manslaughter and willful neglect of duty. According to the police complaint, Callahan caused Edmond’s death through negligent omission and by failing to “fulfill her legal duty to timely and properly respond to a suicidal statement by an inmate.” She is now facing 15 years in prison.

Moore, however, was cleared of charges and even managed to get her job reinstated through an arbitration process. Moore will receive back-pay for the months she didn’t work after being fired. She has returned to a supervisory position in the prison, the very one she held when Edmond passed away.

According to jail and prison records, Janika had attempted suicide several times and was prescribed medication to treat her depression and bipolar disorder. On the morning before her final attempt, she was found with a broken razor blade in her cell. Records show Edmond was in constant conflict with the prison staff for swearing, disobeying orders, and fighting with other inmates. She had convictions for assault, resisting arrest, and breaking and entering.

Edmonds’ family has not yet filed suit, but they have retained a lawyer, who told the press that the failure to prevent Edmond’s suicide is indicative of broader problems at Huron Valley Correctional Facility. The attorney has indicated that the lawsuit will allege deliberate neglect of duty and a failure to follow the facility’s own procedures.

According to an MDOC policy directive, staff must respond to life-threatening suicidal behavior immediately and treat it as a medical emergency. Staff members are required to respond to medical emergencies within four minutes. Threats of suicide are also expected to be addressed without delay.

The personal injury attorneys at the Neumann Law Group represent injured people throughout Michigan from offices in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Call us at (231) 463-0122 or at (616) 717-5666 for a free consultation.

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