BOSTON — A prisoner rights organization is criticizing the state prisons department for failing to complete an investigation into the death of a mental health patient in a department facility nearly five years ago.
Joshua Messier died after a scuffle with guards at Bridgewater State Hospital in May 2009.
Messier’s death was ruled a homicide, and an autopsy found blunt force injuries to nearly every part of Messier’s body. None of the seven guards in Messier’s cell the night he died have been punished or prosecuted.
“There is no excuse for taking so long to investigate and discipline officers who mistreat and abuse prisoners,” Leslie Walker, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, told The Boston Globe. “The tortoise-like pace is just unthinkable for a family that wants answers.”
Messier, a 23-year-old diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic from Charlton, was sent to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
In surveillance video, two guards can be seen pressing down on Messier’s back while he was seated on a bed with his hands cuffed behind him, a practice prohibited in state prisons.
Two internal Department of Correction investigations faulted the guards.
The department released a statement from Commissioner Luis Spencer, saying after a 2011 review of Messier’s death, the two guards “were retrained and officer training was significantly enhanced.”
Walker also faulted Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz for declining to pursue criminal charges against the guards.
Cruz has said he dropped the criminal probe because the medical examiner told investigators she couldn’t identify a specific cause of death.
Messier’s parents are suing nine guards, two nurses and the Department of Correction over his death.