On December 28, 2017, HSR attorneys Joshua Nuni, Lori Rifkin, and Dan Stormer filed a complaint in federal court on behalf of the family and estate of Bertram Hiscock against Yuba and Sutter Counties, Yuba County Sheriff Steven Durfor, and other defendants.
Mr. Hiscock, a 34-year-old U.C. Berkley graduate who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, committed suicide in the Yuba County Jail on January 29, 2017, after two previous suicide attempts while in the Jail’s custody. Though he exhibited increasingly psychotic behavior and was found incompetent to stand trial, Jail officials failed to provide Mr. Hiscock with meaningful mental health treatment, isolated him in solitary confinement, and then left him in a rubber “safety” cell to choke to death on his own urine and feces.
In recent local press interviews, Lori Rifkin stated, “They put him in a horrific rubber room and basically just left him there.”
Joshua Nuni added, “This was someone who is clearly experiencing a severe mental health crisis, and the defendants here locked him in solitary confinement without treatment … knowing the safety risk that it posed to people in Mr. Hiscock’s position…. This case was a tragedy that was caused by the jail system’s inability to recognize and deal with mental health issues.”
Yuba County has been on notice for over thirty years that its inadequate provision of mental health care to inmates at the Yuba County Jail results in needless harm. The Jail has been subject to a court-ordered consent decree since 1979, which requires improvements to medical and mental health care treatment. Yuba County moved to terminate the consent decree in 2013, but the court denied its motion, holding that the county had failed to demonstrate that it was not continuing to violate inmates’ constitutional rights. The county appealed, and on April 19, 2016, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Mr. Hiscock’s brother, Vincent Hiscock, as administrator of the estate, and Mr. Hiscock’s father, Sherrick Hiscock, are plaintiffs in the instant case. In a recent interview, Vincent Hiscock stated, “[Bertram] was a joy to talk to. My brother was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, especially when he was doing well.” He added, “I don’t want what happened to my brother to continue to happen to other people.”