Clackamas County Faces Another Lawsuit Over Inmate Suicide

It’s the second suit filed in recent months alleging negligence by the county and its medical contractor.

The family of a man who hanged himself in Clackamas County Jail in 2021 filed a lawsuit last month accusing the county and its medical contractor of negligence.

Jermelle Madison Jr., 23, suffering from schizophrenia, was not put on suicide watch despite telling the police officer who transported him to jail that he was going to kill himself, according to the legal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Portland. His death led to protests in the streets and a subsequent threat of legal action first reported by KOIN-TV early last year.

In the past two years, Madison’s attorneys have obtained additional documentation from the county detailing the final days of his life. Shortly after being booked into the jail on June 20, 2021, Madison’s grandmother called the jail twice to request he be placed on suicide watch. He was not, according to the legal complaint. Officers noted that Madison was “prone to outbursts both verbal and physical,” and he was placed in disciplinary segregation, the lawsuit alleges.

A week later, he returned from a court date and demanded a nurse but was ignored, according to the complaint. A half-hour later, Madison was found hanging from his bunk and transported to the hospital on life support.

“Mr. Madison’s records show that neither a treatment plan was developed nor was proper documentation kept indicating that he exhibited signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation, despite apparent prior knowledge of this,” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit makes allegations similar to those in a $20 million lawsuit filed in May on behalf of the estate of Rhonda Burke, who committed suicide in the same jail a month prior.

Related: Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Following Suicide in Clackamas County Jail

This latest case does not specify damages. “They want answers,” says one of the family’s attorneys, Juan C. Chavez. “And, secondly, fair compensation.”

Chavez says the county needs to drop its for-profit health care contractor, Alabama-based NaphCare, which is named in both of the recent lawsuits. NaphCare is contracted by both Clackamas and Washington counties. “These private jail and prison health care companies are nickel-and-diming taxpayers—and killing people,” Chavez says.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW’s journalism through our Give!Guide Fundraising page.