[WATCH] Prison Gaurds Stand By and Watch as Inmate Hangs Himself in Cell

Guards at Smith State Prison didn’t try to stop troubled inmate Richard Tavera from hanging himself until four had assembled outside his cell, videos obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show.
By then, more than seven minutes had passed since the first report Tavera was attempting suicide, and nothing could be done to save his life, the videos show.

The videos add to the evidence that officers stood by as the 24-year-old with a history of mental health problems killed himself with a makeshift noose in the South Georgia prison’s isolation-segregation unit.

As the AJC reported earlier this year, Tavera’s death in December 2014 is now the subject of federal lawsuits filed by the inmate’s mother, Maria Arenas of Austin, Texas. The lawsuits in Georgia and Texas claim that the Georgia Department of Corrections and various employees violated Tavera’s civil rights by letting him die.

The prison incident report indicates that two officers didn’t immediately intervene even though they could see Tavera looping one end of a bedsheet around a sprinkler in the ceiling and the other around his neck. According to the incident report, the door to the inmate’s cell wasn’t opened until a third officer, a lieutenant, arrived.

The incident report was the basis of Arenas’ lawsuits when they initially were filed. But now her attorneys have amended the Georgia lawsuit based on additional evidence, including surveillance video from outside the cell and video taken by an officer with a handheld camera after the group went inside.

Showing how the incident unfolded in real time, the videos indicate that four officers were actually on the scene before the door was opened. When the men finally entered the cell, the videos indicate Tavera’s body was hanging limp and lifeless. The handheld video also shows that then the officers didn’t even have the proper tool to cut Tavera down.

One of Arenas’ attorneys, Jeff Edwards, said he believes the videos are an even more explicit sign that the suicide could have been prevented.

“Correctional officers aren’t supposed to let people die in front of them, let alone four officers,” he said.

Joan Heath, the Georgia Department of Corrections’ director of public affairs, said no one from the department can comment on the videos because of the ongoing litigation.

The department’s standard operating procedures require that at least two officers be present when a cell door is opened in isolation-segregation. The policy is an industry standard because isolation-segregation, also known as lockdown, is where prisons typically house their most disruptive inmates.

Even so, correctional experts have told the AJC that emergencies demand that the second officer be on the scene as quickly as possible, preferably in less than four minutes.

For the full story visit: http://www.myajc.com/news/crime–law/videos-guards-outside-cell-georgia-inmate-hanged-himself/22tRwr7RUfeJIlUdHQkrhK/