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Private Prison Company Will Pay $7 Million to Family of Mentally Ill Inmate Who Killed Herself

People logo People 3 days ago Chris Harris
a person posing for the camera © CBS Philly

A private company that manages prisons will pay $7 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed last year by the family of a mentally ill Pennsylvania woman who killed herself while detained inside one of their facilities, PEOPLE confirms.

David Inscho, the attorney for the family of Janene Wallace, tells PEOPLE the 35-year-old woman who was diagnosed as depressive and paranoid hung herself in May 2015 inside the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

According to Inscho, the suicide ended Wallace’s 50-day in solitary confinement. She was not let out of her cell once during the final 85 hours of her life, he says.

The lawsuit was filed by Wallace’s relatives in February 2016. It named Community Education Centers, which ran the George W. Hill Correctional Facility until its recent acquisition by another prison operator, The GEO Group. (The former website of Community Education Centers redirects to that of The GEO Group.)

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The settlement was finalized Nov. 6 — the day before the civil trial was scheduled to commence.

“They caused her death and failed to further prevent her death by placing her in solitary with a guard who taunted her and told her to kill herself,” Inscho alleges. “She was left in her cell for 23 hours a day, with just one hour of exercise. On the weekends, she didn’t get out at all.”

Wallace’s mental health problems first came to light in her late twenties, according to Inscho, who said she was sent to George W. Hill Correctional Facility in 2013 following her conviction on terroristic threat charges, stemming from threatening phone calls she made to a high school acquaintance.

She was eventually released on probation. Wallace was returned to the prison after violating her probation in 2015 by missing an appointment with her probation officer.

Wallace allegedly refused to bathe in prison, and was making irrational statements. Inscho says she also rubbed bodily fluids on a shower wall and accused the guards of trying to hurt her.

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She was placed in solitary confinement with a sign posted to her door warning she was “unstable.”

Before ending her own life, Inscho says a prison guard encouraged Wallace to “go ahead and choke yourself.” She was found hanging from a vent, with her bra tied around her neck.

A statement from Wallace’s family says she was “a wonderful woman with a kind heart.” The family is pleased that her death and the civil suit it sparked helped exposed “the horrible treatment she received” and initiate policy changes that will “treat rather than lock up people needing” mental health treatment.

At a Thursday news conference, Wallace’s mother, Suzanne Wallace remembered her daughter as “Very creative, very intelligent and beautiful,” according to CBS.

Calls to the George W. Hill Correctional Facility were not returned Monday.

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