Palakovic v. Wetzel, No. 16-2726 (3d Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Brandon, convicted of burglary, was sentenced to 16–48 months’ imprisonment. During intake, Brandon informed mental health staff that he had attempted suicide, had recently engaged in self-harm, and had plans about how to kill himself. Brandon was diagnosed with serious mental disorders, identified as a “suicide behavior risk,” and placed on the mental health roster. During his incarceration at Pennsylania's SCI Cresson, Brandon reported suicidal thoughts. Brandon did not receive counseling or evaluation; any mental health interviews were conducted “through the cell door slot in the solitary confinement unit.” Brandon was repeatedly subjected to solitary confinement. Most SCI Cresson incidents of self-harm occurred in solitary confinement. During Brandon’s incarceration, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated allegations that SCI Cresson provided inadequate mental health care, failed to adequately protect prisoners, and subjected them to excessive periods of isolation. Ultimately, the DOJ reported “systemwide failure” to consider mental health issues appropriately, a “fragmented and ineffective” mental healthcare program, insufficient staffing, poor recordkeeping, screening and diagnostic procedures, deficient oversight and lack of training in the proper response to warning signs by mentally ill prisoners. Brandon, age 23, committed suicide while in solitary confinement. The Third Circuit reversed dismissal of his parents’ civil rights claims. Their allegations support an inference that, despite knowing of Brandon’s vulnerability and the increased risk of suicide in solitary confinement, the defendants disregarded that risk and permitted Brandon to be repeatedly isolated in solitary confinement.