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Death At Bridgewater

Inside Bridgewater State Hospital (Jason Baker/Flickr)

Inside Bridgewater State Hospital (Jason Baker/Flickr)

Joshua Messier died in a medium security prison, even though he had not been convicted of a crime. The 23-year-old had schizophrenia, and was prone to violence, so authorities sent him for psychiatric evaluation to Bridgewater State Hospital, which is more prison than medical facility.

In May 2009, following a violent episode, guards shackled Joshua’s legs and hands, bent him over and pushed down hard on his back as they strapped him to a bed. Messier stopped breathing and died. A medical examiner initially ruled that Messier was a victim of homicide. But nearly five years later, no one has been prosecuted or even punished.

Guests

Michael Rezendes, reporter for the Boston Globe. He wrote the article, “A Death In Restraints After ‘Standard Procedure‘.”

Lisa Brown, mother of 23-year-old Joshua Messier, who died while being subdued during a schizophrenic episode at Bridgewater State Prison.

 

 


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  • Responsible85

    This is Joshua Messier’s mom. I’d like to share a little more information on Josh… The violence with Josh was only when he was decompensated in a hospital setting where they would not either tweak his medications or just plain didn’t believe me that Josh was going downhill and needed help. He had never been violent in any place public. If he was violent at home, it was to himself as the voices he heard told him he had to hurt himself if… A.) He wanted to be happy … B.) He wanted to find true love … C.) If he wanted his parents to be happy, etc. It was very, very sad. It was even more sad that nobody wanted to help us and after he completely decompensated and struck out and hit the mental health workers at the very hospital (Harrington Memorial) that I had recently took him to 4 times trying to get him help … It’s that very hospital that took this kid who had no criminal record and had him put in Bridgewater. I pleaded with the Judge that day and said to him, “Josh is not a criminal. Bridgewater is for the criminally insane. He’s a country kid. If you put him in Bridgewater, even just for an evaluation, he will be killed there!” … And he was!!

    When Joshua struck-out at someone, it was because he was allowed to become completely decompensated and thought he saw someone or something scary coming towards him to hurt him. He struck-out in protection of himself. I know if I thought I saw something scary about to hurt me, I would strike-out to protect myself too. Wouldn’t you?

    Thank you for listening.

  • E.M.

    I haven’t heard such confusion in the media about such an important incident in quite some time. It reminds me of the Hernandez case in Worcester.

    The six official “manners of death” in Massachusetts are: pending investigation (still investigating when death certificate is issued), could not be determined (investigation complete and no apparent cause of death), natural (cancer, stroke, etc), accident (pulled into farm equipment, etc), suicide (person killed him/herself), and homicide (DUI death, murder, etc).

    The medical examiner’s first and only conclusion still stands: heart attack and chest compression by homicide. The district attorney, *not* speaking on behalf of the medical examiner, simply shifted the blame onto Joshua, but still a homicide, still apparently caused by the corrections officers, except (supposedly) *justifiable* homicide–that is, the officers were justified in using lethal force on him, which means they were (supposedly) justified in fearing for their lives or serious injury.

    It is difficult to understand how the officers could fear for their lives or serious injury from a man on a bed, with his feet shackled to the bed and his hands cuffed behind his back. They could have tasered him to incapacitate him so they could also shackle his hands to the bed to complete their four-point restraint of him. They apparently had the time to get a taser as he was no immediate danger to anyone.

    The officers, the medical examiner, the district attorney and the state police all work for the state and have working relationships with each other. An independent agency/investigator has not yet become involved, but should become involved.

    Some questions to answer are: Were the officers justified in using lethal force? Did the officers fail to immediately follow up with medical attention when he became limp and unresponsive after they “suitcased” him? Is “suitcasing” an inmate specifically approved or specifically prohibited? Did official procedures exist for such a situation? Did the officers follow those procedures? Were the officers sufficiently trained to handle these kinds of situations?

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