ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal lawsuit says solitary confinement conditions in one New Mexico county were so inhumane that they drove a woman arrested and charged with domestic battery to commit suicide.
According to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, Sandoval County authorities kept Raynbow Gignilliat, 39, of Atlanta, in solitary confinement for weeks without proper treatment for her bipolar disorder following her October 2013 arrest.
Gignilliat, who had moved in with her mother in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, was charged with domestic battery and criminal damage to property following a dispute at the home. Gignilliat’s mother wanted her taken to a mental hospital, but Sandoval County authorities booked her into jail and placed her in solitary confinement after concluding she was suffering from mental illness, the lawsuit said.
Authorities kept her isolated even after witnessing signs that she needed treatment, including “stripping naked, smearing feces and urine on herself and her solitary cell, hallucinating and screaming for hours during the day and night,” court documents said.
The lawsuit also said authorities punished Gignilliat by turning off the water to her cell so she couldn’t bathe or flush the toilet and that they used pepper spray to calm her down.
Sandoval County Attorney Patrick Trujillo referred all questions to Sandoval County spokesman Sidney Hill.
Hill said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
Prosecutors dropped all charges against Gignilliat in March. The lawsuit said she wasn’t able to recover from how she was treated in isolation and committed suicide in June.
The family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages and legal fees.
The lawsuit comes as some New Mexico lawmakers are seeking to change how law enforcement agencies deal with mentally ill suspects.
New Mexico is one of five states without a law allowing judges to require that mental health outpatients take medications, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit that tracks such matters.
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