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17 April 2024

Prisoner dies of dehydration after deprived of water


A mentally ill inmate in Milwaukee died of "acute dehydration" after prison staff in the midwestern US city cut off water to his solitary confinement cell for seven days, according to court testimony this week.

Terrill Thomas, 38, died a year ago on April 24, 2016. But the circumstances of his death and his final days came to light during hearings held on Monday and Tuesday.

Guards purposefully deprived Thomas of water as a form of punishment, according to the inquest and details reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper.

Thomas, who was arrested on charges of shooting a man and firing rounds inside a casino, acted in an apparently erratic manner early in his detention and was then placed in solitary confinement, which his family says amounts to torture.

Because he would not stay calm, prison authorities cut water to the sink and toilet in his tiny cell.

Prisoners told the Journal Sentinel that Thomas spent the last days of his life in agony, begging for water, in vain.

He lost 35 pounds (16 kilograms) and grew very weak, before dying on the cement floor of his cell, which did not have a mattress.

Given the serious nature of the allegations, prosecutors asked six jurors Monday to decide whether charges should be brought in the case.

Thomas's death has created a huge controversy for Milwaukee's ultra-conservative, cowboy hat-wearing black Sheriff David Clarke, an ardent supporter of Donald Trump during the presidential campaign.

According to the Journal Sentinel, Clarke flew into a rage and threatened Milwaukee's chief coroner who had ruled Thomas's death a homicide.

Once a conclusion is made in the inquest, prosecutors will decide whether to press charges against Clarke's prison services.