ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandoval County has agreed to a $1.8 million settlement that will resolve a lawsuit alleging that the time Raynbow Gignilliat spent in solitary confinement at the county jail led to her suicide.
Sidney Hill, spokesman for Sandoval County, said the county’s out-of-pocket cost for the case is a $15,000 deductible paid to its insurance company.
Gignilliat, 39, a mother of three, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had managed her mental health for years without medication. But her mental health declined amid a divorce and custody dispute, according to the lawsuit her family filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque. She was living with her mother in Sandoval County. In late October 2013, she was arrested on a domestic battery charge.
After about two weeks in custody, Gignilliat was moved into segregation, though it is not clear why, which meant she was kept alone in a cell for 24 hours per day.
“Jails know that, every day, a significant portion of their population has mental illness,” said Jack Jacks, the attorney representing Gignilliat’s family. “The easy choice is to merely lock them in a small cell and leave them there, because at least they aren’t creating problems.”
Gignilliat’s mental health deteriorated rapidly.
After just six days, correctional officers noted that Gignilliat was throwing feces around her cell, according to the lawsuit.
She pounded on the window, punched herself, splashed herself with water from the toilet, hallucinated and screamed.
The suit alleged that employees were aware of her mental health deterioration, but made no effort to find treatment for her.
After watching her health decline for six weeks, according to the lawsuit, Gignilliat was taken to a hospital emergency room. A doctor recommended that Gignilliat be moved to a facility offering psychiatric care and that she receive psychiatric medication, “or she will die,” the lawsuit argues. She was released from the hospital and returned to segregation, according to the lawsuit.
In January 2014, she was moved to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute and, with treatment, “was able to do normal activities,” according to the lawsuit.
She was released from the institute in the spring, Jacks said, and the charges against her were dropped, but, in June 2014, she committed suicide.
“She just was never the same after being released from the jail,” Jacks said.
The $1.8 million settlement will be distributed into separate trust funds for each of Gignilliat’s three young sons.