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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Autistic Teen Dies After Abuse by Jail Guards

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between the justice system and autistic people.

Erin Glynn and Laura A. Bischoff at the Columbus Dispatch:
Inside the Montgomery County Jail, guards taunted, belittled and threatened Isaiah Trammell, a 19-year-old who had autism spectrum disorder.

Deputies on the overnight shift told Trammell he was "ridiculous," "embarrassing" and "acting like an ass," surveillance video shows. Officers strapped Trammell into a restraint chair two separate times and threatened more time in the chair if he didn’t calm down.

Trammell couldn’t calm himself. He banged his head on the cell door, howled and repeatedly screamed “Let me out!”

Head-banging or other self-injury behaviors are more prevalent among people with autism. For Trammell, it was a dangerous coping mechanism that he continued during his brief time in jail.

“You remember how that restraint chair felt? Remember what the sergeant said? You're gonna go in for 10 hours next time you go in there. You want to do that?" one officer told Trammell, hours after he had been released from the chair the first time.

One officer said they couldn't use the restraint chair, prompting another to respond: “Just put the chair in front of his (expletive) cell so he stops. Give him a constant reminder.”

The restraint chair is supposed to be a last resort, only used in extreme circumstances and when the safety of the incarcerated person or others is in danger. Staff are supposed to use other interventions first, such as offering medication.

Trammell begged for his medications, a phone call and a blanket. No one heeded his pleas.

Less than 10 hours after entering jail, Dayton paramedics loaded Trammell into an ambulance.

He died three days later. The coroner ruled it a suicide − a ruling Trammell's mother wants changed.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said Trammell shouldn’t have been in jail, given his mental health issues.

Trammell's case isn't an outlier. A USA TODAY Network Ohio investigation found that most of the 16,000 people in Ohio jails each day suffer from mental illness.