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Texas Civil Rights Project Sues Harris County Sheriff’s Office Over Inmate’s Jail Suicide

Attorneys for the family of a man who committed suicide in the Harris County Jail in 2014 have filed a lawsuit alleging jailers ignored his earlier suicide attempt.

Amin Alehashem with the Texas Civil Rights Project speaks about the lawsuit filed on behalf of Danarian Hawkins’ mother, Jacqueline Smith (far left).
Amin Alehashem with the Texas Civil Rights Project speaks about the lawsuit filed on behalf of Danarian Hawkins’ mother, Jacqueline Smith (far left).

In-custody deaths here in the Houston area have made headlines recently, most notably Sandra Bland’s death in jail earlier this month. Now, attorneys for the family of a man who committed suicide in the Harris County Jail in 2014 have filed a lawsuit alleging jailers ignored his earlier suicide attempt. 

Danarian Hawkins, 27, committed suicide at the Harris County Jail in 2014. He hung himself from a smoke detector in his cell using a bedsheet.

Amin Alehashem is the Houston director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, the group that filed the lawsuit against the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. He says Hawkins had previously tried to hang himself in the exact same way.

“Although Harris County Jail staff knew that Danarian suffered from severe mental illness and had a history of past suicide attempts, they gave him a bedsheet and left him unsupervised in a jail cell that contained a smoke detector,” Alehashem says.

He says Hawkins was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He was in jail for more than a year awaiting trial for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.

Alehashem says instead of being incarcerated, Hawkins should have been diverted to a facility that had the tools to treat him.

“Instead of getting mental health treatment that he needed, Mr. Hawkins languished in jail simply awaiting trial because he and his family could not afford the cost of bail,” he says.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

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