The Human Rights Coalition in Pennsylvania has reported on the July 16th suicide of Brandon Palakovic, 23, at State Correctional Institution in Cresson (SCI-Cresson). HRC notes that the “facility that is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for warehousing mentally ill prisoners in the hole and depriving them of mental health treatment.”
Out of a population of 1,400 inmates, SCI-Cresson holds over 100 in solitary confinement. According to a press release by the US Department of Justice federal officials planned to “investigate allegations that SCI Cresson provided inadequate mental health care to prisoners who have mental illness, failed to adequately protect such prisoners from harm, and subjected them to excessively prolonged periods of isolation, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Palakovic had been institutionalized four times since he was eleven years old for mental health and related behavioral problems. He had been variously diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, bipolar disorder, and had noted impulse control problems. He had been incarcerated for just under a year and a half at the time of his death. It has been reported that four days prior to his death, he had refused to take medication, resulting in his being “issued a misconduct report for refusal to obey a direct order as a consequence and sent to solitary confinement in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) as punishment.”
“A report from a prisoner in the RHU stated that Brandon was not taking his medication at the time of his suicide, though whether that was his choice or not was unknown. This report also discussed how Brandon had begun talking to non-existent people in his cell. Other prisoners on the block referred to Brandon by the nickname of ‘Suicide’ according to two prisoner reports,” reports HRC.
The Palakovic family has the following message: “We loved our son, Brandon Palakovic, with all of our hearts. He was a beautiful human being who struggled in some areas in his life. Things that came easy for many were a challenge for him. However, his intelligence was something that many marveled at and something that we hoped would be the key to his success someday. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to see his someday. Our hearts are so sad knowing that Brandon’s last thoughts on this earth were of desperation and hopelessness. If only he could have felt our love for him at that precise moment, maybe he would have changed his mind. We will never know. Although we cannot change what happened in that prison cell on July 16th, we can hopefully impact others and bring to light the neglect and mistreatment that many prisoners are forced to live with. If Brandon’s death can positively impact even one other prisoner’s situation, or help a family to avoid the pain of losing a loved one to suicide, then perhaps we will begin to heal and feel like his death was not in vain.”