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The grandmother of an inmate who allegedly spent 154 days of one year in solitary confinement at the Gunnison prison, where he later committed suicide, is suing the Utah Department of Corrections.
Janet Crane filed the civil rights complaint in 3rd District Court on Tuesday, accusing the department as well as employees of the Central Utah Correctional Facility, Juvenile Justice Services and Utah's Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) of cruel and unusual punishment.
The Utah Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday evening.
Crane's grandson, Brock Tucker, who was 19 when he committed suicide, pleaded guilty in April 2013 to two counts of theft one a second- and one a third-degree felony as well as failure to stop at the command of police, stemming from incidents in July and August 2012.
Tucker, the lawsuit states, had mental-health problems. He was found dead in his cell on Oct. 2, 2014, after apparently hanging himself and leaving a note that read: "Send my love to my family and my ex'z! I'm better off gone since I'm already gone! Thanx for nothing!"
Crane says her grandson was first disciplined with solitary confinement for "minor, nonviolent infractions" in early 2013. He was sentenced to additional terms of isolation for wandering out of bounds, misusing medication, refusing orders and giving himself a tattoo over the course of the next two years, the lawsuit states, with 154 nonconsecutive days spent in solitary confinement during his last year of life. The terms purportedly varied from 14 to 30 days each, with some served in succession.
These "repeated periods of torturous solitary confinement" left Tucker in "crushing loneliness" without visitation, according to court documents. Additionally, Crane says, the disciplinary punishment violated regulations at the prison because it wasn't approved by a physician who had mental-health training authorization that is required for inmates receiving outpatient care. Tucker sought treatment for unspecified psychosis and major depressive disorder, the lawsuit states.
Prison staffers "exhibited a shocking degree of deliberate indifference and reckless disregard for the serious and evident medical needs of [Tucker]," the lawsuit alleges. Crane is suing over what she calls cruel and unusual punishment, violation of due process rights and unnecessary rigor by the Department of Corrections. She also accuses DCFS and Juvenile Justice Services of mistreating Tucker when he was in their custody as a youth in 2008.
Crane is asking for unspecified damages to cover funeral expenses, attorney fees and physical and emotional pain.