Department of Correction

Mom Wants Answers in Son's Death in a Connecticut Prison

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Disturbing video shared by the family’s attorney raises new questions about how a 19-year-old man died while in custody at Suffield’s Walker Correctional facility.

The man’s mother said a call for medical help took too long and the man passed away.

“The hardest part for me is I may never find out what really happened in that cell, but I know they are responsible for the urgency, because if they had hurried up, Jamari would be alive today,” Melisia Taylor says.

Taylor, who is a nurse, believes that if they had responded sooner they might have been able to get enough oxygen to his brain and he might be alive today. The autopsy shows brain swelling due to the lack of oxygen.

Taylor is also basing her beliefs on Department of Correction video shared by the family’s attorney.

When they entered Jamari Taylor’s cell, they moved him to the floor and began performing CPR for approximately six minutes. They then took him to an ambulance. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“What were his last words? Was it mommy? Was it daddy? Was it help me?” Taylor asked.

Reports from the Department of Correction and Connecticut State Police say his cellmate was pushing a button for help. According to the DOC’s own internal investigation, the cellmate was “hysterical and yelling” for officers to open the cell door. He told them Taylor was unresponsive and gasping for air.

“We see officials walking their way to Jamari's cell when his cellmate had been pushing the emergency distress button to get his attention - his cellmate dying in the cell unable to breathe,” Taylor’s attorney Alex Taubes said.

He said they’re preparing a claim against the state.

“You see, multiple minutes pass before anyone opens the cell to provide him with assistance,” Taubes said.

His mom is looking for closure. She says her son was a student-athlete in high school, loved his family, but says he fell in with the wrong crowd. Shortly after his 18th birthday, he was arrested for home invasion with a firearm. He had been in Walker Correctional Institution for a month when he died.

“It’s going to be a year on Feb. 8 since Jamari passed and I have no answers as to what happened,” Taylor said.

“We have an autopsy that says he died of natural causes. A healthy 19-year-old,” Taylor continued.

The DOC issued a statement: “Any loss of life is heart-wrenching and we extend our deepest sympathies to all of those were impacted by the loss of Mr. Taylor. The Connecticut State Police and the Connecticut Department of Correction completed separate, independent investigations into the tragic death of Mr. Taylor. Our investigation found no information which would contradict the Medical Examiner's findings that Mr. Taylor died of natural causes. There was no negligence or misconduct by the employees involved in this incident. The Connecticut State Police have not filed any criminal charges related to this incident.”

“Very little has been done into the emergency response at Walker Correctional Institution on the night that Jamari Taylor died,” Taubes said.

The internal DOC investigation found “opportunities for improvement,” but said professional standards were followed in responding to the medical emergency.

“I feel like the state wants to sweep this under the rug. I know Jamari's not the first kid who has ever died in jail and we don’t hear about it,” Taylor said. “He didn’t deserve to die like that.”

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