A prisoner from Texas who gouged out his eyes with a plastic spoon is suing the jail – claiming the psychiatric ward he was in was “deliberately understaffed”.
Miguel Carrera, 20, pulled out his eye while in an east Texas psychiatric prison.
He had allegedly been left unsupervised in the prison, despite staff knowing about his long history with mental illness, which included being diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Before his stint in prison, Mr Carrera suffered vivid hallucinations and violent psychotic episodes.
One incident saw him swallow a Taser dart that police shot him with.
Mr Carrera ended up in prison after attacking a security guard and failing his subsequent probation by taking drugs.
He told the Houston Chronicle that the night he gouged out an eye, he had wanted to stop his hallucinations, and used the only thing he could find – a plastic spoon.
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After gouging out one of his eyes, he attempted to do the other, and was left permanently blind.
Officers at the prison walked by on their rounds at 6.30am, but only checked that he was alert. It was not for another two hours that staff realised what had happened after they saw a bloodied spoon and injured face.
He was rushed to hospital and underwent five hours of emergency surgery that failed to save his remaining eye.
Now, Mr Carrera and his wife have filed a federal lawsuit against the prison’s medical provider, two guards and the former warden, claiming that they left the unit deliberately understaffed and with the tools he needed to hurt himself, despite knowing his mental history and threats of self harm.
Lawyer Kelly Greenwood Prather, who is representing Mr Carrera and his family, said: “The prison is both understaffed in terms of healthcare providers and guards.
“Thus, there’s not appropriate care and oversight for very mentally ill prisoners who have no way to protect themselves.”
Guards saw Miguel Carrera on their rounds but allegedly left him for two hours
Shortly after the incident, Mr Carrera was released from prison.
Ms Prather added: “He’s obviously unemployable at this point with limited education and no vision. He’s basically living with family and trying to figure out how to earn a living.”
The case was first filed in February this year, but this week his lawyers added claims about prison staffing levels and lack of supervision, arguing he should have been checked on every 15 to 30 minutes.
The new filing also claims that Mr Carrera was being knowingly under-medicated, allegedly in a response to budget cuts.
A response from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, filed in court earlier this year, denied the claims of deliberate under-staffing.