Prosecutors investigate dehydration death of mentally ill inmate

Despite the fact that four people died in his jail within a six-month period, Sheriff Clarke has shown no remorse nor accepted responsibility.


Responsible for the deaths of at least four people in police custody last year, including a newborn baby, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and his deputies are currently under investigation for allowing a mentally ill inmate to die from dehydration after shutting off the water to his cell for seven days. According to prosecutors, the inmate lost nearly 35lbs in solitary confinement while receiving no water or medical attention.

Arrested for shooting a man and later firing his gun inside a casino, Terrill Thomas was reportedly suffering from a mental breakdown when he shot the man who he believed had recently stolen his car. Aware that Thomas had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the staff at the Milwaukee County Jail placed him in solitary confinement after he used his bedding to flood his cell in the special needs unit.

Surveillance video recorded three corrections officers shutting off the water to Thomas’ new jail cell before leaving him in solitary confinement. According to Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley, the officers never turned the water back on and failed to document the punishment or inform their supervisors of the unorthodox decision to cut off his water.

“This order to shut off Mr. Thomas’ water was highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail,” Benkley stated.

In court this week, Benkley also noted that Thomas did not receive any water or any other beverages during his meals in solitary confinement. On Monday, Officer DeCorie Smith testified that inmates in solitary confinement only receive a beverage with their meals on Sunday while drinking water from the sink in their cell during the rest of the week.

Although Thomas’ fellow inmates assert that he had been begging for water in the days before his death, none of the officers claimed they received any requests from Thomas for water or medical attention despite the fact that he lost nearly 35lbs while in police custody and was suffering from a mental disorder. Eight days after entering the jail, Thomas was found dead in his cell on April 24, 2016.

According to the medical examiner, Thomas died of profound dehydration and his death was classified as a homicide. Last month, Thomas’ family filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the officers of torturing him while ignoring his pleas for help.

Last year, at least four people died in the Milwaukee County Jail within a six-month period, including a newborn baby.

Arrested during a routine traffic stop for obstructing/resisting and a parole violation, Shadé Swayzer was eight-and-a-half months pregnant when she entered the jail. On July 14, 2016, Swayzer went into labor in her cell and asked the guards for medical attention after her water broke, but they reportedly mocked her instead.

According to her federal lawsuit, Swayzer’s baby only survived long enough to begin breastfeeding when the infant died in her arms. The guards allegedly waited six hours after Swayzer gave birth before checking in on her again and discovering the dead child.

Despite the fact that four people died in his jail within a six-month period, Sheriff Clarke has shown no remorse nor accepted responsibility for these needless deaths. On Monday, prosecutors opened an inquest into Thomas’ death to determine whether any jail staff could face criminal charges for their involvement.


If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.