A former inmate has sued the Tippecanoe County Jail as well as leaders of the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department after the jail allegedly failed to administer required medications to him and protect inmates from COVID-19.
Marcel Brown, 25, was booked into the jail Sept. 5 on charges of armed robbery and theft, and was released on Dec. 29. Brown’s wife, Carmen, who is representing him in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, says he was denied access to medication for seizures while he was in jail.
“He informed them that he did have underlying health conditions that required medication (and) they said they would have to outsource, of course,” Carmen Brown said.
Because this was Marcel Brown’s first time being arrested, and stress often triggers his seizures, Carmen Brown said it was urgent that Marcel Brown receive the medication.
Eventually, officials at the jail allegedly told Carmen Brown she could bring the medication directly to the jail.
“They had me come in and deliver the medication, they just never physically administered it,” she said.
Marcel Brown filed the lawsuit against the Tippecanoe County Jail, Jail Commander Thomas Lehman, Sheriff Robert Goldsmith and Chief Deputy Terry Ruley for alleged breach of duty and failure to exercise reasonable care.
Carmen Brown said she has no law background in civil rights cases, but considers herself a “legal expert in process serving.”
Because Marcel Brown is unable to recall seizures he experiences, Carmen Brown said she is unsure if he suffered from any seizures during his time in jail.
Marcel Brown tested positive for COVID-19 the day before he posted bond, meaning that upon release he had to spend another two weeks away from his wife while in quarantine. Carmen Brown said Marcel Brown was not given a mask in jail until the final week of his stay, and was not tested for COVID-19 until his final day.
“They tested people that were symptomatic, not asymptomatic,” she said. “By then it’s already too late.”
Goldsmith, who said he was unaware of the lawsuit when The Exponent first reached him on Tuesday, declined to comment on the lawsuit itself and on the jail’s general COVID-19 protocols and guidelines regarding inmates’ medical needs.
“COVID-19 has been an issue since March of last year and I have done several interviews about it since the pandemic began,” Goldsmith said in an email. “We didn’t have our first positive case until November and as of last week we have zero cases.”
The jail saw 99 confirmed cases and 44 quarantined inmates as of Jan. 27, according to previous reporting by WLFI News 18.
Carmen Brown said that according to Marcel Brown, the jail would allow all inmates who tested positive into the day rooms for one hour, then allow all those who were not sick into the day rooms immediately afterward without first sanitizing the room.
At one point during Marcel Brown’s time in jail, Carmen Brown said another inmate who had tested positive was allowed to come into Marcel Brown’s cell, without any safety measures in place.
Marcel Brown is suing for $1 million in damages, and is demanding an injunction obligation including “COVID-19 testing, cleaning of all cells/area and exercise of more reasonable care of any/all inmates,” according to the lawsuit documents.