Isolated and mentally ill: Inmate cuts off his own penis, flushes it down toilet inside Broward jail

(WSVN) - A Broward County inmate brutally cuts himself while in jail. The man’s unthinkable act is now raising concerns about inmates with mental illness locked in isolation. We need to warn you, the details in this story are disturbing. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

Alone inside this cell, just before midnight in Broward County’s main jail in Fort Lauderdale, an inmate cut off his own penis.

Greg Lauer, attorney: “I think any human being can imagine, you know, how disturbed you’d have to be to cut off any one of your body parts and flush them down the toilet.”

According to a report obtained by 7News, banging was heard and a 32-year-old man was found standing at his jail-cell door saying, “I have a real medical emergency. I just cut my penis off and flushed it down the toilet. I have no need for it anymore.”

Investigators said he used the blade from a shaving razor.

Greg Lauer: “In other places, yes, I have heard of people gouging out their eyeballs, slicing off their testicles.”

At the time of the September incident, the man had been in solitary confinement for nearly five months.

Greg Lauer: “So this is what a solitary cell looks like.”

Lauer said mental illness and isolation are a dangerous combination.

Greg Lauer: “This is what happens when a mentally ill individual is placed in solitary confinement and isn’t given any treatment of any sort.”

The man was rushed to the hospital and later committed to a mental institution. But we have learned this incident is just one of the many times an inmate with mental illness has hurt themselves in solitary confinement over the years.

Greg Lauer: “I have represented five people who have died horrible deaths in the Broward County jail, and every single one of them was in solitary confinement.”

Lauer said all of their deaths were preventable.

Like a 23-year-old with mental illness who went on a hunger strike.

Greg Lauer: “William Herring was psychotic and delusional, and he thought that Jesus had told him not to eat. He crashed, he stopped breathing, his heart stopped and he ended up essentially brain dead.”

He died six weeks later after his parents took him off life support.

A 52-year-old homeless U.S. Army veteran who, according to a lawsuit, died from “complications of untreated malnutrition and psychosis.”

Greg Lauer: “Mr. Priester had been in the state hospital prior to when he went to jail. He weighed 240 pounds the day he got arrested, and 155 days later, at his autopsy, ’cause he died in jail, he weighed 120 pounds.”

Raleigh Priester’s sister said he had schizophrenia and didn’t get the care he needed.

Ceaniel Edwards, brother died in Broward jail: “He was skin and bones, just a skeleton laying there. My niece turned to me and said, ‘Auntie, what happened to him?'”

The Broward Sheriff’s Office pays a private company to provide mental-health services to inmates.

As part of a federal lawsuit, BSO agreed to bring in a mental health expert to assess conditions inside its jails.

In a report released last year, the doctor was blunt.

“Inmates with serious mental illness are suffering needlessly,” and added, “It’s absolutely inhumane.”

She concluded there were “current and ongoing violations of federal rights.”

Ceaniel Edwards: “They need to look at their process and make the appropriate changes.”

Because of the lawsuit, BSO agreed to change the way inmates with mental illness are treated.

For a month, we have been asking BSO to discuss exactly what changes have been made, but we were denied an interview.

Ceaniel Edwards: “These are people that are ill. They need help.”

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