By Julia Zorthian
April 25, 2017

A Milwaukee inmate died after he was deprived of water for seven days of solitary confinement in April 2016, prosecutors said on Monday.

Terrill Thomas, 38, died of dehydration on his eighth day in a solitary confinement cell at Milwaukee County Jail, according to prosecutors as they opened an inquest into his death on Monday. The prosecutors said the inmate had an untreated mental illness and he did not ask for water when officers turned off his supply, the Milwuakee Journal Sentinel reports.

Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley said during his opening statement that three officers turned off Thomas’ water supply after he flooded another cell, but did not turn it back on or tell other officers about the lack of water. Thomas allegedly lost nearly 35 pounds as he weakened in the solitary cell, and prosecutors said his bi-polar disorder kept him from telling officers about his needs.

“This order to shut off Mr. Thomas’ water was highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail,” Benkley said, the Journal Sentinel reports.

It’s not evident how many people in the jail knew about the breach of operating procedure. During this inquest, the prosecutors will question people and delve into the circumstances of Thomas’ death before a jury, which will decide whether there is probable cause to file charges. The prosecutors can choose whether to follow the jury’s recommendation.

[Journal Sentinel]

Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com.

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