Matthew Bullock, a 32-year-old convicted killer, fashioned a noose from a bed sheet that he wasn’t supposed to have, and committed suicide last year in Pennsylvania’s state prison at Dallas, says Philadelphia City Paper. Despite a state official’s declaration there was no indication he wanted to hurt himself, his family members and fellow inmates accuse corrections officers of taunting him and actually encouraging him to take his own life. The City Paper says a lawsuit by Bullock’s family “paints the picture of a prison system that is woefully ill-equipped for handling the mentally ill, and implies that, at least in Bullock’s case, it relied on a horrific solitary confinement unit guarded by abusive [corrections officers] to sequester the insane.”
Bullock, who had a long history of mental illness, psychotic episodes and auditory hallucinations, had tried to kill himself at least 20 documented times in the decade before his 2003 incarceration, and several more times after that. A branch of the Human Rights Coalition called FedUp!, a leftist prisoner-rights organizatio, issued a report charging “Institutionalized Cruelty” at Pennsylvania prisons. Compiled mostly from inmates’ letters inmates, the report claims that corrections officers in the Dallas prison’s’ solitary confinement unit – also known as the Restricted Housing Unit, or RHU – sometimes encourage prisoners to commit suicide.