Hosey and Shantita Colbert, parents of 17-year-old Tyrin Colbert who was strangled by his cellmate in East Baton Rouge Parish prison in February, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday that claims his death was the result of the "unconstitutionally violent and dangerous" way the prison is run.
The Colberts claim in the lawsuit their son died "as a result of both explicit and de facto policies and practices" in the prison and because of the indifference to "serious medical and mental health needs of all prisoners," including their son.
His cellmate at the time of his death, 17-year-old Kermitrius Thomas, has been indicted on second degree murder in Tyrin Colbert's death and is awaiting trial.
Tyrin Colbert was arrested in November 2015 on a warrant that he tried to rape two boys that summer. He was never charged with the crimes, according to court records, though the required 60-day window in which prosecutors are supposed to file felony charges had passed.
At the time of the 17-year-old's killing, the lawsuit claims fighting and yelling could be heard from their cell, but no staff intervened. Tyrin Colbert was found face down with a blanket around his neck and was transported to the hospital, where he died the next day.
An inmate at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is accused of strangling and killing his cel…
The Colberts allege the prison, run by the Sheriff's Office, violated their son's Constitutional rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
In the suit, the Colberts say the prison is "violent, racist, drug-infested, and in parts, filthy," and also is overpopulated and run-down. The complaint says the routine violence stems from Sheriff's deputies, who physically assault inmates and do not monitor prisoner living units to ensure safety, which created mental health and physical safety issues for Tyrin Colbert.
The medical care is "non-existent for some," the suit says, and the medical treatment Tyrin Colbert received was "deliberately indifferent" to his needs. The complaint details the 17-year-old's more-than three months in jail leading up to his death, which included him reaching out multiple times for mental health support like anxiety, suicidal thoughts and hallucinations. After first dismissing the juvenile's claims of mental health issues, a doctor prescribed him with medication days later, the suit says.
In late November, Tyrin Colbert reported being sexually assaulted by a prisoner, and then a month later another prisoner broke the 17-year-old's forearm, according to the suit. In early January, Tyrin Colbert reported to staff he was being bullied and then later, that he was suicidal. The response for all his concerns and incidents were less than adequate.
"Right now, Baton Rouge has a jail that creates crime, is a threat to public safety," said David Utter, the lead attorney representing the Colbert's. "We're putting people in a jail that is dangerous, violent and exposed people to all the wrong behaviors. We become a safer public when we have a safer jail."
Utter is also representing another family, in the wrongful death of Lamar Johnson in Parish Prison, which was ruled a suicide. Johnson's family alleges in a lawsuit filed in May that he died after ingesting synthetic marijuana, a drug that is widely available and tolerated by guards. The case is still pending, but the allegations have been denied by the Sheriff's Office and the parish.
At first, Lamar Alexander Johnson tried to see the positive side of being taken to jail.The …
The Parish of East Baton Rouge, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, Lt. Col. Dennis Grimes, the warden of Parish Prison, and Rintha Simpson - the interim director of Prison Medical Services are the main entities sued in the case.