On Wednesday, Ryan Partridge received about $1.5 million of his $2.5 million settlement after a lawsuit against Boulder County Jail for employees’ “excessive force” and “deliberate indifference” against him while he was an inmate facing serious psychiatric needs in 2016.
Partridge, 37, settled the lawsuit Aug. 9, almost seven years after he was released from Boulder County Jail. Throughout his stay, Partridge made multiple suicide attempts and committed forms of self-harm, including gouging his eyes out, which led to permanent blindness and banging his head on a metal toilet that caused him to break seven teeth.
Today, Partridge lives with his two divorced parents, who got back together to help care for him. He is on medication to treat his schizophrenia and is seeing a local care team. However he will likely remain blind for the rest of his life.
“I’m relieved to be getting anything at all,” Partridge said. “I feel like I get out unscathed on some level here. I get some of my life back and I’m lucky for that because I have the support of the community and legal process. I’m lucky that we live in America, this would not happen in most places.”
In 2016, Partridge said he was placed under solitary confinement three separate times — with the longest stint being 33 days. According to Partridge, his incarceration involved seven instances of excessive force, an inability to leave his isolation cell for recess or contact his family or lawyer via phone call or in-person visit.
The Boulder County Jail said no charges were filed for excessive force. The sheriff’s office also said Partridge refused to leave his cell for recess and refused to meet and speak with family at times during his isolation. The jail cited 10 separate threats that Partridge made threats to other inmates or staff during his stay.
Partridge said he didn’t make any threats to other inmates or jail staff, other than one instance where he hit an officer in the head with an open hand.
Following Partridge’s incarceration, he testified in the state House and Senate for Rep. Judy Amabile’s Regulation of Restrictive Housing In Jails bill, which prohibits a jail with a bed capacity of more than 400 beds from involuntarily placing an individual with a diagnosed mental health illness in restrictive housing. The bill went into effect July 1, 2022.
“The idea was just to get people out of their cells each day and meaningfully interact with other people,” said Amabile, a Democratic representative for Boulder County. “The bill is about limiting the use of solitary confinement in the county jails. Right now they do whatever they want, they’re not overseen by any state agencies.”
Amabile said she’s disappointed by the implementation of the bill in some jails, specifically pointing to Boulder County Jail scheduling people to leave their cells in the middle of the night.
Jail officials said they have trouble scheduling inmates’ time out during normal daytime hours as they are currently at capacity.
“With the number of inmates housed in each module, the limited area in each module where inmates can go out of their cells, the jail must stagger inmates’ out-times using the entire 24 hours of a day,” Boulder County Sheriff Office spokesperson Carrie Haverfield wrote.
The sizable jail population is partially due to state hospital backlogs.
Amabile has advocated for a mental health facility to be built in Boulder County to help reduce inmates with mental health concerns in jail.
“People are dying in our jails,” Amabile said. “People are committing suicide. They’re hurting themselves, they’re hurting other people, they’re creating a giant problem for the jails because the jails don’t have the ability to care for these people.”
Haverfield said the Patridge case occurred almost seven years ago and in that time period the jail has made multiple policy adjustments. The jail has also broken ground on a new alternative sentencing facility and opened up space in the jail which may be used to accommodate more inmates with mental health diagnoses.
After seven years, Partridge said he is grateful for the Boulder community that has supported him.
Partridge said talking to the media and finalizing the agreement in recent days has brought back memories for him, making it harder to process than years prior when he was just trying to “go through the motions.”
Despite the recent emotional hardship, Partridge said he’s grateful that the lawsuit has brought his family back together and offered him more support.
“My days are tedious but I still get joy from life and I have a good mind state,” Partridge said. “Having this lawsuit has brought us together and it gave me something to hope for that I would get something back and it’s turned out to be a bigger event than I would have ever imagined.”
Partridge’s mother, Shelly, said making the decision to settle in the lawsuit was a gamble but thinking practically, her son needs to look at providing for his future. Even if the money can only solve so much.
“At 30 years old, how much money would you take to go blind for the rest of your life?” Partridge’s father Richard said.
But even now, the Partridges’ hope for the possibility their son can still regain his eyesight.
“Research is trying to figure out how to do eye transplants so I certainly have some home that some day that will be a reality,” Richard Partridge said.
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