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Local

Probe continues into man’s apparent suicide at Kane County jail

Prisoner rights editor questions how detainee killed himself in custody

Piotr Dutkiewicz
Piotr Dutkiewicz

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The apparent suicide of a man in custody at the Kane County jail Tuesday remains under investigation, according to officials with the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.

Piotr Dutkiewicz, 51, hanged himself in the restroom of a booking area Tuesday, Kane County Coroner Rob Russell stated. Dutkiewicz was charged with felony disorderly conduct and threatening a public official while being evicted from his house in Elgin.

Paul Wright, editor of “Prison Legal News,” a project of the Human Rights Defense Center based in Lake Worth, Florida, said evaluating the mental health during the jail intake process is critical. He said jail suicides are “100 percent preventable.”

“Are they asking prisoners if they have suicidal ideation?” Wright said. “It’s a misconception that suicide is inevitable. Of all the things that happen in prisons and jails, the ones that are 100 percent preventable are homicides and suicides.”

Wright said the fact that Dutkiewicz was able to be away from staff long enough to hang himself is “a big old red flag.”

“He died by asphyxiation – not a gun, which takes 15 seconds, and it’s over. It takes time to fashion a noose and find an anchor point and wait,” Wright said. “No one can argue that what was done was adequate. Mental health security measures were not adequate because you have a dead body in the mix.”

The magazine and its parent organization are suing Kane County, the sheriff and others in federal court, alleging censorship because their inmate subscribers are not receiving the publication in violation of their Constitutional rights.

Kane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Pat Gengler said the office would not comment on Wright’s assertions. Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer said the probe into Dutkiewicz’s death was turned over to Lt. Brian McCarty, who is in charge of investigations.

“I do not know how long it will take. We do not want to rush anything,” Kramer said. “When something like this happens, you have to turn it over to an independent body. I have experts, and I let them do the expert work. And they will bring the full investigation to me when it’s completed.”

Steve J. Martin, a nationally known corrections consultant and attorney based in Austin, Texas, said detainees with no experience in confinement or arrest are traumatized once they go to jail and are at risk for suicide.

Martin was widely interviewed after the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail, commenting about “the shock of confinement” and its connection to inmate suicide.

“My comments related primarily to detainees who had no experience with confinement or arrest … and what basically is a traumatic experience,” Martin said. “When you are suddenly totally subject to the captivity of law enforcement [and] move into the actual detention facility, you are suddenly rendered powerless.”

Martin said he has spent 40 years working with people in confinement and reviewed hundreds of inmate suicides. While he said he could not address Dutkiewicz’s death, Martin called inmate suicides and attempted suicides “variations on a theme.”

“I’ve seen offenders arrested numerous times, and every time they come to a jail facility, they undergo a major emotional upheaval,” Martin said. “Their mental health status can go into acute hysteria. It’s a huge problem.”

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