Prisons

She Says Her Son Died After Smoking Insecticide While He Was Supposed To Be on Suicide Watch. Now She's Suing.

The lawsuit says there have been multiple deaths from neglect and poor suicide prevention policies at the Louisiana prison where Javon Kennerson died.

|

How was a man in a Louisiana prison who was supposed to be on suicide watch allowed to smoke insecticide, leading to his death?

That's the question Jennifer Bartie wants answered. The man was her son, 37-year-old Javon Kennerson, who died in December 2020 several weeks after falling into a sudden and severe mental health emergency.

A federal civil rights lawsuit by Bartie says her son's death is a result of the facility's well-documented failures to provide adequate health care and properly monitor suicidal inmates, which has led to numerous preventable deaths over the years.

"In sum, after engaging in self-harm, ramming his head into his wall, acting psychotic, eating feces and drinking urine, Mr. Kennerson, in his altered mind state, was still under such poor care and supervision that he was permitted to smoke insecticide, which ultimately caused his death," the lawsuit, filed on Bartie's behalf by the National Police Accountability Project, says.

The lawsuit alleges that staff and supervisors were deliberately indifferent to Kennerson's deteriorated mental state and self-harm, violating his Eighth Amendment right to adequate health care while incarcerated. As Reason has reported in the past, despite these constitutional protections, gruesome medical neglect and malpractice is common throughout U.S. prison and jail systems.

Kennerson was serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted of an armed robbery spree in 2013. Bartie says he was in frequent contact with his family over the years and had no significant mental health issues until he was transferred in November 2020 to Catahoula Correctional Center, a private prison facility run by Lasalle Corrections that the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections contracts with.

Shortly after arriving at Catahoula on November 18, 2020, Kennerson began exhibiting erratic behavior, such as attempting to run naked out of his cell and defecating on his lunch tray.

The lawsuit says that, despite this, Kennerson did not receive any medical attention until November 25, when he was diagnosed with acute psychosis. Sometime between then and December 2, Kennerson obtained and smoked roach killer. He was transferred to a hospital on December 2 with low blood pressure, lethargy, and swollen limbs. Photographs accompanying the lawsuit show large, open gashes on his head, allegedly as a result of running into his cell door. By December 4, he was unresponsive and placed on life support.

It was not until December 8, however, that Kennerson's family was notified of his condition. Bartie says a doctor told her that Catahoula had refused to give him any contact information for Kennerson's family until the day before. Kennerson died on December 12, 2020.

"It was absolutely heartbreaking to find out the few details I had at that time and also to find out that in spite of my son's grave condition, they still did not have the decency to allow his family to be contacted," Bartie tells Reason. "I want people to know that, despite his crimes, he was a loving young man who did not deserve the treatment or lack of treatment he received. In fact, no one deserves that, and I want people in charge of him and others to be held accountable in order to possibly prevent this from happening to another family. My son is gone, but I want his name to live on."

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of allegations and reports of inadequate care at LaSalle facilities. The lawsuit says that, "LaSalle facilities were found out of compliance with minimum suicide prevention standards 29 times in the last 5 years. At least ten incarcerated people have died by suicide in LaSalle facilities while on suicide watch since 2016."

There have also been medical neglect cases. For example, Reason reported on the case of Holly Barlow-Austin, who died in 2019 after she was incarcerated in a jail in Texarkana, Texas, operated by LaSalle Corrections. After being deprived of her medications, she contracted meningitis, went blind, and was left for two days on the floor of a medical observation cell without food or water, where she repeatedly soiled herself, before she was finally taken to a hospital and died. The Texarkana jail is also where 20-year-old Morgan Angerbauer died of ketoacidosis in 2016 after being denied medications to manage her diabetes.

Bartie says that, after her son's death, neither Catahoula nor the previous facility he was housed in would give her any more information.

"Throughout the months following his death, I called both facilities to try and reason with someone to please give me any records they had on my son, because as his mother, I should be able to retrieve this information, especially since my son has passed away," she says. "They both refused."

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections and LaSalle Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

NEXT: El Salvador Detains 17,000 'Suspected Gang Members' Without Due Process

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. With prisons, if you get sick it's just another opportunity to let [or make] you suffer for your crimes, whatever they may be.

    1. "If you get sick"

      Obviously you mean:

      "If you get sick (smoking stolen insecticide)..."

  2. Uhhmm....is there a principled libertarian position against legalized insecticide or voluntary suicide? Why business is another person's life choice and how does it affect you?

    1. This. They didn’t kill him, he did it himself.

      1. No! By preventing a more noble state agency from interfering in Kennerson's life, in a good way, the evil state agency has committed a crime against humanity.

      2. His name was Robert Paulson.

  3. Is the Louisiana prison a platform or a publisher?

  4. What color was everyone’s skin?

    1. That determines everything.

    2. His name was Javon, if that tells you anything.

  5. Now I'm curious how effective smoked insecticide is at causing death, what kind of insecticide and manner of expiration.

      1. The concept of truth is racist!

  6. The average age of transition was 18 for social transition (17 for females, 24 for males), and 20.7 for medical transition (20 for females, 26 for males). A quarter of the respondents began medical transition before 18. The average age of detransition was 23 (22 for females, 30 for males). On average, detransition occurred roughly 5 years after transition was initiated (with males taking somewhat longer to detransition).

    The participants' decision to detransition was most often tied to the realization that their gender dysphoria was related to other issues (70%), health concerns (62%), and the fact that transition did not alleviate their dysphoria (50%). Interestingly, over 4 in 10 (43%) participants endorsed a change in political views as a reason for detransition.

    Most participants reported significant difficulties finding the help that they needed during their detransition process from medical, mental health, or LGBT communities. Only 13% of the respondents received help from LGBT organizations when detransitioning, compared to 51% when transitioning. A number of participants reported negative reactions from LGBT and medical communities, and 51% of the sample expressed that they did not feel supported during their detransition.

    Most detransitioners reported ongoing needs related to managing comorbid mental health conditions (65%), finding alternatives to medical transition (65%), and coping with regret (60%). Half of the sample reported the need for medical information on stopping or changing hormone regimens. A great majority of participants also expressed the need to hear about others' detransition experiences (87%) and getting in contact with other detransitioners (76%). The study highlights the urgency of providing appropriate medical, psychological, legal, and social support to detransitioners.

    Don't be such a phobe, maaaaan.

  7. What the f**k is it with Louisiana?

  8. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say that it wouldn't be a good thing if prisoners knew that offing themselves would lead to a big payday for their families.

    -jcr

  9. How can you write this article and not answer the most fundamental question -- how do you smoke insecticide? "Kennerson obtained and smoked roach killer." Smoked roach killer? How do you smoke a liquid? If it's a powder, how do you smoke a powder? Did he roll a loosie?

    You have to make the most basic fact make sense, before the rest of the story makes sense.

    1. I can only imagine that he smoked something else that was laced with insecticide. You'd think that they would specify what that was.

    2. If it's a powder, how do you smoke a powder?

      You must be a millennial. For anyone who lived through a decade of people "smoking rocks", this isn't a real question.

      Agreeing that there are questions left unanswered, the real question is "How could he have smoked enough?" Most of the common roach killers are either chronically toxic to humans or acutely toxic in the hundreds of milligrams to gram dosages, doses seemingly far too high to attain from a single "smoking".

      1. Not a millenial, just a non-smoker (tobacco or marijuana or anything else). I imagine that tobacco could be laced with insecticide. Was that was this was? I just don't envision insecticide coming in smokable form so it was an odd omission.

        1. I imagine that tobacco could be laced with insecticide. Was that was this was?

          Laced as in residual from normal commercial production? Almost certainly not. Even doping it doesn't make sense as, AFAIK, people aren't generally growing, drying, and rolling their own roach-killer laced tobacco in prison and, even at that, the tobacco would be covered in powder or dripping with liquid roach killer.

          As I indicated (I'm not a smoker either), I think he bought a rock of what he thought was crack, which had actually been cut with roach killer (again, baking soda is the traditional cutting agent but, in the 80s and 90s people were cutting it with anything they could find under their sink) or, bought a rock of roach killer that someone sold him as being crack or, being psychotic and presumably suicidal, bought a rock of what he thought was roach killer and smoked it. It's possible someone else gave it to him in an attempt to kill him but that seems exceedingly convoluted with a high risk to reward ratio.

        2. Nicotine was the first insecticide discovered, so .tobacco is always laced with insecticide. (A pack of cigarettes would kill a non-smoker, if he ate it and kept it down long enough to absorb most of the nicotine.) What deadlier insecticide was in whatever this guy smoked? How did he get it, and how did he get it into smokable form?

      2. Sounds like they did some experiments on him.

        1. Living through the 80s/90s, they could've fed him roach killer, discovered him nearly overcome by it in his cell, searched around and "found" a crack pipe with roach killer on it, and QED'ed their way out of poisoning him. But that sounds like a reach. Seems much more plausible that a borderline psychotic was either given roach killer and told it was crack or just assumed it was (or even knew it was roach killer and assumed somewhat correctly smoking it would be more lethal than eating it).

  10. Was he acquainted with Hillary Clinton?

  11. I blame Hunter for Javon Kennerson death.
    Hunter keeps getting high while sending his shit.
    You would think Hunter's handlers would watch him more closely.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.