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Schuylkill County prison sued over inmate suicide case

The estate of a Coaldale woman who died in 2020 in Schuylkill County Prison is suing the county, the prison and others for her death.

A lawsuit filed Nov. 2 in Middle District Court filed by Sean Redclift, the administrator of the estate of Stacy Redclift, 48, says she hanged herself while in prison.

A jury trial is demanded along with compensatory damages of $150,000, punitive damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

The suit says Redclift was “confined to prison without adequate surveillance, supervision, or proper care and/or psychological/psychiatric treatment resulting in hanging and her death.”

Defendants are listed as the county, the Schuylkill County Prison Board, former Warden Eugene Berdanier, Primecare Medical Inc., the medical provider for the prison, three nurses and four correctional officers named Jane and John Doe, the Coaldale Borough Police Department, Coaldale Borough, and two borough police officers listed as John Does and Coaldale Police officer Matthew Jungbaer.

Case history

The circumstances leading to her death Jan. 8 are as follows, according to the suit.

Coaldale Police responded to a domestic dispute at her home Jan. 6 involving her husband, Sean, and a son.

Due to her “allegedly erratic and noncompliant behavior,” she was arrested, arraigned and later released to her mother’s house on unsecured bail.

She returned to her home and displayed the same alleged behavior, documents show. Redclift was taken to the prison but not before police were told of her history of mental illness, psychotic episodes and suicide attempts/tendencies. Among her psychiatric issues were bipolar disorder, severe depression and anxiety, the lawsuit states.

The suit says the defendants failed to properly assess her mental state to see if she needed help nor was she placed on a suicide watch when “the need to do so was obvious,” per the document.

Redclift was placed in a cell which “did not provide any precautions or safety measures against suicide but instead allowed inmates to wear normal prison clothes.”

It claims she was “given numerous ways to kill herself, including access to shoelaces and structures/fixtures on which a person could hang themselves.”

Her cellmate found her Jan. 7 with “a noose, made out of shoelaces, around her neck.” She was taken via ambulance to a hospital where she was pronounced dead Jan. 8. An autopsy performed by a forensic pathologist determined the cause of death as strangulation.

The suit claims the defendants were “deliberately indifferent” to Redclift’s “vulnerabilities and her need for supervision and/or access to evaluation for psychiatric care and treatment and/or monitoring and supervision resulting in her death. If the aforementioned defendants had not been deliberately indifferent to the decedent’s serious psychological mental health issues and medical needs, she would not have attempted or been able to commit suicide.”