$4.6M Settlement In Denver Jail Death Includes New Mental Health Staff, Training

· Nov. 16, 2017, 11:00 am
Photo: Michael Marshall 2 Frames From Video (AP)(AP/File)
 In these Nov. 11, 2015 file still frames from surveillance video at Denver's Downtown Detention Center, released by the Denver Department of Safety via the law firm Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, 50-year-old homeless man Michael Marshall is placed into a restraint chair by Denver sheriff's deputies during a psychotic episode. He later died. 

Photo: Michael Marshall 2 Frames From Video (AP)(AP/File)The office of the Denver Sheriff will hire mental health staffers for the city's detention centers and undergo rigorous training in how to deal with people in crisis, according to a settlement agreement approved by the City Council this week.

The agreement was reached between the city and the family of Michael Marshall, a mentally ill man who died while in custody at the Denver jail in 2015. Marshall was having a psychotic episode and was being restrained by police when he died.

"Michael Marshall's family was absolutely thrilled at the possibility that something good could come out of the tragedy," said Mari Newman, a lawyer who represented the Marshall family in the lawsuit against Denver. "I think it's going to be helpful ... I think the corrections staff will simply behave better when people are watching."

In addition to a $4.6 million payment to Marshall's family, Denver officials agreed to reforms at the Denver Jail and for the sheriff's department. 

Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman said the population at the jail is a challenge, in part because roughly 25 percent of people in the city's jail have a severe mental illness.

"You know we're committed, I'm committed, to making sure the deputies understand the components of the use of force policy to make sure we're providing them with the resources they need to deal with this difficult population," he said. "That includes resources for their own mental health, that includes training."

Complaints about law enforcement misconduct have been an ongoing problem for Denver. The city has settled more than $19 million in claims against the city's law enforcement agencies in the past several years.

In jury awards, families only get money, but in settlements like the one reached last month, families can ask for other things like jail reform and mental health training. 

The city is required to report on progress of the training and hiring through 2023, according to the settlement agreement. After the council approved the agreement, city officials said in a statement, "the mental health of the individuals in the custody of the Denver Sheriff Department has been, and continues to be, a priority of the department."
City officials had no estimate of costs on the non-compensatory part of the agreement. 

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