DA: Jermelle Madison jailed in general unit despite schizophrenia

Clackamas County

Inmate died from suicide in Clackamas County Jail days after he was screened for ongoing mental health issues

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COURTESY PHOTO: LATRINA MADISON – Jermelle Madison, Jr.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Clackamas County district attorneys have determined Jermelle Madison Jr., who died of a suicide, was incarcerated in a general population unit following a screening procedure that included records of his recent schizophrenia diagnosis and multiple verbal indications that he planned self-harm.

Investigations completed in August by the Clackamas County Major Crimes Team, with the Oregon City Police Department at the helm, said Madison, 23, died as a result of suicide as opposed to criminal homicide.

The young man from Milwaukie was initially found unresponsive in his Clackamas County Jail cell during a routine security check at approximately 2:15 p.m. on June 28, according to the DA’s report obtained by Pamplin Media Group.

Per the report, Madison was briefly resuscitated by deputies and jail staff nurses and transported to the intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center before he was declared dead on July 3. It’s unclear why Madison was transported to Sunnyside, when the Providence Willamette Falls ICU is at least 10 minutes closer to the jail in Oregon City.

The report included records of Madison’s June 20 arrest by the Milwaukie Police Department on outstanding warrants for missing a court date following his initial Dec. 21, 2020 arrest on charges of unlawful use of a weapon, menacing, fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest for an incident allegedly involving a knife.

Records reveal that the decision to place Madison in a general unit was at least partially influenced by a standard interview process held between jail deputies and those who have been convicted of a crime.

According to a Clackamas County Sheriff’s official, while the classification process varies from case to case, it utilizes a combination of the screening interview, historical data and current information to reach a conclusion on a newly convicted person’s placement within the facility. Asked for comment on the jail’s specific process for screening Madison’s mental condition and determining his eventual placement, CCSO authorities were not immediately available to respond.

Per the report, during the interview and screening process, Madison “denied that he had any suicide ideations” or was experiencing ongoing mental health issues that may influence his placement options within the jail — despite explicitly stating multiple times on record to his arresting officers a matter of hours prior that he intended to end his life.

Jail records show that for months leading up to and including the day Madison was arrested in June, he made multiple suicidal statements to officers, demonstrated intent to conduct self-harm as well as demonstrated continued schizophrenic episodes and substance abuse.

Madison — known by his nickname, Melle — began experiencing worsening mental health issues after his father, Jermelle Madison, Sr., was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer and ultimately died while his son was incarcerated, according to reports from the jail and family members.

On the jail’s “intake assessment form,” which an arresting officer completes and submits to the jail at the time an inmate is booked, the Milwaukie PD officer on June 20 answered “yes” for whether or not the arrestee verbalized or demonstrated suicidal ideation during the arrest, writing that Madison “stated multiple times on 6/20 that he wanted to die.”

The DA’s report included seven total videos taken of the June 20 arrest via cell phone, as Milwaukie PD do not have body-worn cameras. In the videos, Madison explicitly states he is going to kill himself, threatens law enforcement, including to hurt and kill them, takes action to harm himself while handcuffed in the police car and more.

Per CCSO officials, in a similar case, information such as this would be considered by deputies when determining the placement of an individual who has displayed such actions, with consideration also given to the individual’s responses to mental health screening questions.

Questions which were filled “no” regarding Madison’s mental health status at the time of the arrest include the following:

Whether or not he was “exhibiting bizarre or abnormal behavior” at the time, had attempted suicide in the “past six months,” was “currently displaying suicide ideation,” had a “mental, physical or developmental disability,” needed help while in the jail “because of a disability,” and had current medical problems that would “impact housing options.”

Concerns about potential oversight in the jail’s screening process were raised by demonstrators at a Sept. 11 rally for justice following Madison’s death. Organizers at the rally questioned why the young man was not provided with a higher level of care.

“We want accountability and transparency from the people that we pay taxes to, and who are supposed to be protecting us,” said a woman who asked not to be named while protesting with Clackamas County Standing Up for Racial Justice group. “We know that the system doesn’t support Black youth.”

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