Metro-East News

Estate of St. Clair County Jail inmate who committed suicide sues county

The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department is liable for the suicide death of Joshua Jurcich, 33, because the department exposed Jercich to filthy and overcrowded living conditions, kept him in isolation, beat him and ignored his suicide threats, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis.

The lawsuit filed by Jucrich’s estate names as defendants St. Clair County; Sheriff Richard Watson; Major Phillip McLaurin; 20 St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department officials; Wexford Health Sources, which is the county’s jail mental health provider, and various medical and mental health professionals.

Watson was not immediately available for comment.

Jurcich’s estate is represented by attorneys with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a public-interest law firm that is part of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic in Chicago. Belleville attorney Latoya Berry also represents Jurcich’s estate in the case.

Jurcich had a mental impairment with a history of substance abuse, according to the complaint. It alleges that Sheriff’s Department personnel violated Jurcich’s rights under the U.S. Constitution by using excessive force against him and refusing to protect him from the risk of suicide. The complaint also includes claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act that allege county officials and contractors are liable for Jurcich’s wrongful death.

The complaint contends that although jail inmates tend to commit suicide at a far higher rate than the general population, the St. Clair County Jail has no formal policies, procedures or regulations regarding suicide prevention.

The suit also alleges that jail employees are not adequately trained in suicide prevention — their training consists of one 8-hour class on mental health and suicide prevention.

“Thus, jail employees do not have the training or resources to sufficiently monitor and protect detainees who are at risk for suicide,” according to the lawsuit.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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