Harrisburg, Pa. -- On December 4, 2019, Dominic Ingle, 24, of Lancaster, PA, hanged himself in his cell at the State Correctional Institution in Camp Hill (SCI-Camp Hill), Pennsylvania. He died 11 days later from injuries sustained due to his suicide.
This week, his father, Joseph McQuaid, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, alleging gross negligence by the administrators, staff, correctional officers and medical personnel at SCI-Camp Hill.
The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Ingle's struggles with mental illness were well-documented, yet these individuals ignored his need for treatment and protection, resulting in his tragic death.
Mr. Ingle's suicide is part of an epidemic of suicides in Pennsylvania state prisons. This problem came to light after a 2013 lawsuit filed by the Disability Rights Network documenting inadequate mental health care and treatment of SCI-Cresson inmates.
This lawsuit was followed by a U.S. Department of Justice investigation in 2014 that found the lack of adequate mental health care was widespread across the state prison system. Finally, over the four-year period from 2015 to 2019, the number of inmate suicides per year more than doubled from eight to nineteen. In fact, at SCI-Camp Hill, two other inmates killed themselves by hanging in January and June 2019.
"Mr. Ingle's suicide in December 2019 was not an anomaly, but was part of an ongoing, systemic breakdown that has continually failed those with serious mental illness within the Pennsylvania State Prison system," Attorney Peter Greiner of Philadelphia-based lawfirm Zarwin Baum said.
"The system failed Dominic Ingle and, if nothing is done to change this prison suicide epidemic, many more will suffer the same tragic death."
Mr. Ingle's mental health issues were well-documented and diagnosed, Greiner asserted. He had attempted suicide and was in the hospital recovering from his injuries when he was taken back to SCI-Camp Hill on a probation violation. Upon his admission to SCI-Camp Hill, Mr. Ingle's suicide risk was ignored, diminished, and generally neglected by everyone and a system that failed to adequately protect and treat inmates with serious mental health issues, Griner said.
Griner alleges that medical and mental health professionals failed to appreciate the threat that Mr. Ingle posed to himself, refusing to keep him on constant monitoring and treating his issues with more and more medication.
Mr. Ingle was also failed by a psychological services specialist and corrections officers in the prison who ignored reports of a suicide attempt by Mr. Ingle in his cell, as well as several warnings from other witnesses that Mr. Ingle was planning to kill himself, Griner said.
Those warnings continued until and actually on the day that Mr. Ingle hanged himself, and they were all ignored. On the afternoon of December 4, 2019, Mr. Ingle was found hanging by a cord around his neck in his cell by his cellmate. He died eleven days later.
The multi-count lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the eleven defendants including Pennsylvania's Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, the SCI-Camp Hill Administrator Laurel Harry and several corrections officers, doctors, and mental health specialists at the prison.