41-year-old Lonnetta Johnson had significant mental health issues. Her mental health issues, as well as medical issues requiring appropriate medication and treatment, were well-known to the Harrison County jail.
Ms. Johnson was arrested and jailed in the Harrison County jail on December 30, 2021, just a few hours after being previously released. She was arrested on low-level offenses, and there was no doubt that her serious mental health issues affected her ability to live a normal life. Regardless, instead of being taken to the nearest in-patient mental health facility, Harrison County chose to jail her for approximately two weeks. That two-week period concluded with Ms. Johnson’s death.
Witnesses at the jail indicate that Ms. Johnson was unclothed, sitting on a cold cell floor, in the same position, for hours. One witness had the opinion that the temperature in the cell was close to 60 degrees. When someone finally entered the cell to check on Ms. Johnson, it was too late. She was transported to a local hospital, and her body temperature was only 90.1 degrees.
Constitutional rights lawyer Dean Malone represents a family member and filed a federal lawsuit in federal court in Marshall. Mr. Malone said, “We continue to see absolutely horrible situations across Texas, in which mentally ill pre-trial detainees, arrested on low-level offenses, are not provided critically-needed mental and medical healthcare. There was no excuse for not intervening regarding Lonnetta sitting unclothed, on the cold cell floor, for hours. Her mental and physical condition was such that she could not ask for help. We must do better regarding severely mentally ill people. They deserve more than to be incarcerated while their lives hang in the balance.”