A federal judge has given a mother who is fighting to get justice for her son the approval to move forward in a civil lawsuit against officials with the city-parish government of Baton Rouge.
Maria Zavala is filing a lawsuit against the city-parish government after her son “Jonathan” Fano committed suicide while serving time at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
William Claiborne, civil rights attorney, said police found Fano dancing on the streets naked. He was not drunk or under the influence; instead Fano was mentally ill.
Fano was later booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
“There is not a single cell in that jail that was safe for a person with mental illness,” said Claiborne.
The attorney said Fano slit his wrist and was put on “suicide watch” after his first day behind bars. Prison guards eventually took him off the watch list, and they took away his medication.
“He wrote notes and letter to the family and to the medical staff and guards at the prison saying his medication wasn’t working,” said Claiborne. “[And] that he had thoughts [of] harming himself.”
Fano eventually hung himself three months into his sentence.
“Jonathan spent 92 of his 93 days at East Baton Rouge Prison in isolation,” said Claiborne.
Claiborne said Fano’s mother believes the prison could have done more for her son. The lack of medical care, funding for the prison, and staff is what the family believes played a major role in Fano making the decision to end his life.
According to a report by “Promise of Justice Initiative”, 25 inmates have died while being held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison between 2012 and 2016. Claiborne said that number is at least two and a half times the national average.
“People are being killed at that jail,” said Claiborne
Our station reached out to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office for comments and they did not respond.
The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will discuss this issue Wednesday evening.