Family of Inmate Allegedly “Eaten Alive” by Insects in Georgia Jail Demands Answers
The family of Lashawn Thompson, a 35-year-old man who died in the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia, is demanding answers after their loved one was allegedly “eaten alive by insects and bed bugs” in his cell. Thompson, who was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge last summer, was placed in the jail's psychiatric wing due to mental health issues. However, three months later, on September 12, 2022, he was found dead in his cell, infested with bed bugs and insects, according to his family's lawyer, Michael D. Harper.
Harper described the case as one of the most inhumane deaths he had ever seen, adding that “there is no excuse for a mentally ill inmate to be left alone in a jail, abandoned to die.” The medical examiner's autopsy report listed Thompson's cause of death as “undetermined,” but noted a “severe bed bug infestation” in his cell. The report also stated that there were no signs of physical trauma on Thompson's body, which was covered in bed bugs.
Jail records obtained via Open Records Requests establish that the detention offices and medical staff at the Jail noticed that Thompson was deteriorating but did nothing to administer aid to him or to help him, according to Harper's news release. The attorney also claimed that jail staff watched Thompson's health decline until he died, and that one detention officer refused to administer CPR because she “freaked out.”
The family's lawyer is now calling for a criminal investigation into Thompson's death and for the closure and replacement of the Fulton County Jail. Harper shared disturbing photos from Thompson's jail cell, which showed him apparently covered in bugs and the cell's dirty conditions. He described the cell as “not fit for a diseased animal.”
The Fulton County Sheriff's Office released a statement expressing condolences to Thompson's family and stating that an ongoing investigation is examining details regarding the medical care provided. The statement added that the health, well-being, and security of inmates in their care are their top priority, and that the dilapidated conditions of the jail make it difficult to provide a clean, well-maintained, and healthy environment for all inmates and staff. The sheriff's office also approved an additional expenditure of $500,000 to address the infestation of bed bugs, lice, and other vermin within the jail.
Thompson's case highlights the need for better mental health care and adequate facilities for inmates. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with over two million people behind bars. Many of these inmates struggle with mental health issues, and the conditions in many jails and prisons exacerbate their illnesses. It is time for policymakers to address this crisis and ensure that all inmates receive the care and humane treatment they deserve.
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5. “Sheriff responds to claims inmate was ‘eaten alive’ by bed bugs inside Fulton County Jail” WSB Radio, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.wsbradio.com/news/local/sheriff-responds-claims-inmate-was-eaten-alive-by-bed-bugs-inside-fulton-county-jail/SASB3YINLZHFFLOI36LRL44ZAI/
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