ST. LOUIS • A lawsuit filed here says corrections officers deliberately ignored an inmate who had been on suicide watch in St. Louis days before he hanged himself in the Jennings jail in 2014.
A suit filed on behalf of Christina Brooks says police and corrections officers’ negligence contributed to the suicide of her son, DeJuan L. Brison, of St. Louis.
Brison was 26 when he used a blanket to hang himself from the bars of his cell door on Oct. 4, 2014, about 3½ hours after being transferred to the Jennings jail.
St. Louis police had arrested Brison three days earlier in connection with a domestic violence case. Though he was never charged, he was held for three days on a Jennings arrest warrant for failing to appear in court in a 2012 shoplifting case. In that case, Brison was accused of stealing five sticks of women’s deodorant from a dollar store.
Brison had been on suicide watch for two days in the St. Louis jail immediately before being transferred to Jennings, where he was put in an isolated cell, according to information from a St. Louis County police investigation the Post-Dispatch obtained from the city of Jennings in 2015. The investigator found no evidence that jailers in St. Louis had told Jennings jailers about the suicide watch.
Brison arrived at the jail about 9:29 a.m. He told the jailers he had already paid in the shoplifting case, according to the investigation. After complaining about an asthma attack, he was put in the cell about 12:40 p.m.
Brison was found unconscious about 40 minutes later by a corrections officer who was taking out the trash. Brison was taken to a hospital, where he died 17 days later. Surveillance video had caught him looping a sheet around his neck.
The suit filed Friday names the two jails, several of their corrections officers, the city of St. Louis, the city of Jennings, the St. Louis County Police Department, and one St. Louis County police officer. It seeks up to $2 million in compensatory damages and more than $5 million in punitive damages on each of 13 counts of negligence. County police handle policing in Jennings.
St. Louis corrections officers never notified the Jennings Detention Center before the transfer that Brison was on suicide watch and that he had demonstrated suicidal tendencies, the suit says. It says the officers also did not give Jennings Brison’s medical history.
Jennings corrections officers did not interview Brison, try to identify his medical concerns, give him medication or medically evaluate him, the suit says.
The suit alleges that soon after arriving at the Jennings lockup, Brison began suffering from shortness of breath, which was left untreated despite his requests for medication, causing him to collapse. Corrections officers then put him in an unsupervised and unmonitored jail cell, the suit says.
The isolation violated Jennings’ standard procedures, which requires that an inmate with medical concerns be placed in a four-man cell where he can be easily observed, the suit says. It alleges there is no record of corrections officers checking on Brison, in violation of jail a policy requiring officers to monitor inmates every 30 minutes and record it.
The suit alleges the corrections officers’ negligence caused Brison physical and mental pain, prompting him to commit suicide.
Brison had posted a $300 bond on the warrant for the shoplifting case from August 2012, the suit says. It alleges his initial bond was forfeited in September 2013 and that Jennings issued a new warrant later that month with a new bond set at $500 in order to maximize profit.
The suit also alleges that Brison was put in the same cell where Charles Chatman Jr., 24, of Jennings hanged himself seven months before.
Brison, of the 5800 block of Page Boulevard in St. Louis, was a father of four children, ages 4, 5, 6 and 7, and worked for his mother at the company she owns, Brooks Environmental Services.