Denver law firms Bryan & Terrill and Dormer Harpring have filed a new federal lawsuit alleging that longstanding mismanagement of the Saguache County Jail resulted in the 2019 death of Jackson Maes, a 27-year-old African American resident of Crestone, CO.
The law firms representing Jackson’s mother have released the following statement summarizing the allegations of the suit:
Jackson Maes died alone in a cell at the Saguache County Jail while Jail staff
socialized in a nearby dispatch room. Jackson, who was arrested earlier in the
evening for missing a court date on a traffic issue, told Sheriff’s deputies multiple
times that he was feeling suicidal. Despite these cries for help, Jail staff failed to
supervise Jackson, let him talk to a mental health professional, or have him
transported to a healthcare facility. Jackson was unable to leave to get care for
himself. Alone in his cell, but in full view of Jail surveillance cameras, Jackson
pulled down a curtain, wound it into a rope, and wrapped it around his neck.
Jackson passed away without any further safety checks by Jail staff. He was not
discovered for more than eight hours.
In the wake of Jackson’s death, only one Saguache County Sheriff’s deputy faced
discipline – for falsifying his record of a cell check for Jackson that never occurred.
To our knowledge, no Saguache County Jail staff or leadership have faced any
discipline for the violation of Jackson’s constitutional rights that lead to his death.
This is not the first time a Saguache County Jail detainee has committed suicide by
using the same method and the same type of curtain. In February of 2008, another
pretrial detainee at the Jail committed suicide by tearing down a shower curtain,
tying it to the bars of his cell, and wrapping it around his neck.
For years, Saguache County leadership have been warned about and witnessed
unconstitutionally dangerous conditions at the jail, which resulted from
underpayment of staff, poor training, and aging facilities. But both the County
Commissioners and County Sheriff decided to devote funds elsewhere, allowing
unconstitutionally dangerous conditions at the Jail to continue.
According to the United States Department of Justice, Suicide is the leading cause
of death in jails in the United States. The U.S. Constitution requires jails to give
their detainees access to healthcare, and suicide prevention mental healthcare is
not an exception. If Saguache County Jail staff had called an ambulance for
Jackson, our client would not have lost her son.