Family Of Lawton Prisoner Who Died Behind Bars Files Lawsuit, Shares Their Grief

The family of a prisoner in Lawton, who lost his life behind bars filed a lawsuit against Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility and those responsible for his care.

Tuesday, December 5th 2023, 6:04 pm

By: News 9, Deanne Stein

A prisoner’s cry for help leads to his death behind bars, according to his family. Now, his loved ones have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility and those responsible for his care.

Justin Barrientos’ family says he suffered from mental illness and should have been transferred to a mental health treatment facility instead of a prison cell. Barrientos suffered from mental illness and was serving time in the private prison operated by the GEO Group, when he died in January of 2023. “He had Schizoaffective, Bipolar, as well as psychosis, PTSD from a past trauma,” said Linda Gray, Justin Barrientos’ Mother.

Gray said his mental condition sent him down the wrong path. “His mental illness led to his incarceration due to self-medication, he became addicted to drugs, and he wouldn't stay on his medication and so he began to do petty crimes,” she said.

Barrientos was serving time in the private prison where his family says he was denied food, immediate medical attention, and the psychiatric treatment he needed. “There was no rehab,” Gray said. “We tried to intervene because of course, you fear that this is going to end in death, and it did,” added Barrientos’ sister Jennifer Adams. 

According to a lawsuit filed in federal court last month, the 31-year-old died in a suicide watch cell after swallowing a plastic spork that perforated his abdominal cavity. “It was the only way he knew how to make sure he got medical treatment when he was sick or ailing and that free air was spilling into his abdomen it's a very painful way to die,” said Guy Fortney, Attorney. “There was objective evidence of this free air on an x-ray that was done that day and yet the doctor, the nurses, the medical providers at that jail ignored him.” “He was already incarcerated for punishment but to deny immediate medical care is a civil rights violation, it's wrong,” Gray said.

The lawsuit alleges that GEO’s correctional and medical staff failed to provide treatment and left him in a cell for hours in agonizing pain, visible on a security camera. “When I saw his body, it was like starvation,” said Adams “When I saw him get on his knees before his last moment and hit the ground he was trying to pray because he knew where his help came from, so I forgive them, but they must be held accountable.”

For a life cut short. A life his family said he was looking forward to living and one day becoming a minister. “God sees him, and he was somebody, and the callous treatment that he got, the indifferent treatment that he got, he didn't deserve that,” Gray said. 

In a statement previously sent to News 9, a GEO Group spokesperson said: “We offer our condolences to Mr. Barrientos’ family and remain committed to ensuring the health and safety of all those in our care.” The spokesperson adds that they have no further comment while the litigation is pending.

Related Article: 'Ignored Obvious Signs Of Urgent Medical Emergency': Lawsuit Filed After A Man Dies In Lawton Prison


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