DENVER (KDVR) — Boulder County will pay more than $2.5 million to a man who sued on claims of neglect while he was in jail back in 2016.
The man attempted suicide multiple times while in jail. The lawsuit claims deputies used excessive force and didn’t do enough to treat his serious psychiatric needs.
The FOX31 Problem Solvers spoke with his family on Wednesday. A warning: There are details in this story that are disturbing.
According to the civil rights lawsuit. Ryan Partridge was in the Boulder County jail for minor assault back in 2016. He was 30 years old and homeless at the time.
He had severe schizophrenic psychosis, according to the lawsuit. While he was prescribed medicine, he stopped taking it and jumped off the second floor of the jail, breaking his back.
In surveillance video during another incident, Partridge is seen naked and getting into confrontations with deputies, which the lawsuit used as an example of excessive force. Then in December 2016, Partridge gouged his eyes out, causing permanent blindness.
‘This was an avoidable tragedy’
The lawsuit argues the county knew about his mental state and didn’t do enough to forcibly medicate him or obtain a court order to do so.
“If any of the defendants had initiated appropriate medical intervention on behalf of Mr. Partridge, he would not be blind today, would not have broken seven teeth or jumped from the second tier, smashing his head into the metal table and cement floor of the jail and breaking his back,” the lawsuit claims.
FOX31 spoke with him and his parents, who told the Problem Solvers there needs to be reform to make sure something like this never happens again.
“I’m not really the same individual that I was. My tasks are more laborious, but ultimately, I have grown a little bit from it,” Partridge said.
“This was an avoidable tragedy. Didn’t have to happen,” his mother, Shelley, said.
“We don’t feel that there’s a lot of accountability or justice in this decision. I guess my question is always for those people that think that this is so much money, my question would be if you were 30 years old, how much money would you take to be blind the rest of your life?” his father, Richard, said.
Boulder County: We tried to get help
The sheriff’s office sent the Problems Solvers a statement.
“At the time of Mr. Partridge’s injury, he was under a court order to receive mental health services at the state hospital in Pueblo. While Mr. Partridge was in the jail’s custody, sheriff’s office employees repeatedly tried to get him into a facility that could provide him a higher level of mental health treatment than available in a jail setting. Despite those efforts, Mr. Partridge remained in the jail,” the statement reads in part.
The statement went on to say they hope this settlement brings closure to the family. It also says the sheriff’s office has been advocating for a pilot program to allow court approval of treatment medication being administered in jails, but a bill to create that program failed at the state Capitol.
Read the full statement from the sheriff’s office below.
The Boulder County Sheriff, using funds from the county’s insurance carrier, reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by former Boulder County Jail inmate Ryan Partridge. The Sheriff does not believe any of the staff involved in the incident were at fault or violated the law. Nonetheless, it is our hope that the settlement will provide some closure for Mr. Partridge, his family, and the Sheriff’s Office employees who were impacted by the tragic events in which Mr. Partridge harmed himself during a mental health crisis he experienced in the jail.
The events in this case occurred in 2016, and are an example of the ongoing struggles faced by both jail inmates with severe mental illness and the staff who must care for often extremely violent and unpredictable inmates within the limits imposed by state law. The Jail employs a highly qualified medical team that provides medical and mental health treatment to inmates, and it has protocols aimed at preventing at-risk inmates from causing self-harm. However, the jail cannot offer the same level or scope of treatment as a hospital. Under state law, jail medical staff are prohibited from involuntarily administering psychotropic medications to inmates who have been prescribed, but decide to discontinue, these medications, even when such inmates are experiencing extreme symptoms. This leaves jails dependent on the state hospital to admit inmates who need a higher level of long-term care than the jail can provide.
At the time of Mr. Partridge’s injury, he was under a court order to receive mental health services at the state hospital in Pueblo. While Mr. Partridge was in the jail’s custody, Sheriff’s Office employees repeatedly tried to get him into a facility that could provide him a higher level of mental health treatment than available in a jail setting. Despite those efforts, Mr. Partridge remained in the jail.
Boulder County and the Sheriff’s Office continue to explore and implement methods to better assist mentally ill inmates in the face of persistent, lengthy wait times at the state hospital. The Boulder County Jail now hosts the RISE Program, a jail-based competency restoration program created in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services. Boulder County also advocated for Senate Bill 18-263, which would have created a pilot program to allow for court approval of treatment medications to be administered in the jail, but the bill failed. Boulder County will continue to advocate for a better state system for mental health treatment, including reducing wait times.Boulder County Sheriff’s Office