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Unlawful Imprisonment: A Deadly Problem in the US Criminal Justice System

As a federal defense attorney, I know firsthand the distress and anguish associated with someone I care about being falsely imprisoned. It is a heartbreaking reality that many people suffer through in this country, and it is important to understand the causes, consequences, and solutions to unlawful imprisonment.

One of the most recent and horrifying examples of false imprisonment is that of Arkansas man Larry Price. A schizophrenic man, Mr. Price was locked up in a county jail and basically forgotten about for a year while he awaited his court date.

For $100 bail, Mr. Price could have walked free. Instead? He died in solitary confinement after having lost over half his body weight. Jail staff even continued to complete “wellness checks” on Mr. Price for days after he was dead.

No one wants to see this happen to their loved one. In the following post, we will explore what you can do to prevent it.

Definitions of Unlawful Imprisonment

Unlawful imprisonment is defined as the restraint or confinement of a person without legal authority or justification. This could be due to false accusations, misuse of force by law enforcement officers, errors in processing legal documents, or other forms of abuse of power. This type of imprisonment results in injustice for those involved and puts individuals’ rights at risk.

In Mr. Price’s case, the court system of Sebastian County, Arkansas, seems to have placed his case on hold for more than a year without providing adequate mental health services. The result turned out to be a death sentence.

Causes of Unlawful Imprisonment

Unlawful imprisonment can occur due to several different causes. Civil rights violations such as racial discrimination are one cause. There have been numerous cases where an individual has been wrongfully arrested for a crime due to their race or ethnicity. Additionally, mistakes made by law enforcement officers such as failing to read Miranda rights or gathering evidence beyond what was authorized can also lead to unlawful imprisonment.

The Sebastian County Detention Center in Fort Smith is accused of having falsely imprisoned Mr. Price by not granting access and supervision to someone who lacked the mental capacity to care for himself. Family members who tried to visit Mr. Price were told that they could not due to COVID protocols. And since Mr. Price did not have the capacity to identify lawful visitors, he did not receive any who may have been able to help him out of his situation.

Consequences of Unlawful Imprisonment

The impact that wrongful imprisonment has on an individual’s life can be devastating and long-lasting. In addition to the obvious physical and psychological toll that comes with being deprived of freedom, individuals may experience financial hardship due to lost wages and missed job opportunities as well as social repercussions from stigmatization by society or broken relationships with family members and friends.

Unfortunately, in the case of Mr. Price, it cost him his very life. The Sebastian County Sheriff attested on a video statement that Mr. Price did not have the mental capacity to take care of himself when he ate his styrofoam plate instead of the meals that county staff was supposedly providing. Yet, he was never given access to appropriate mental health services, even as his body deteriorated.

Solutions to Unlawful Imprisonment

The most effective solution for addressing unlawful imprisonment is prevention through awareness-raising activities focused on civil rights education for both citizens and law enforcement personnel. Additionally, providing more training for police officers when it comes to arresting an individual can help reduce instances of wrongful arrest and detention.

It’s unlikely the Fort Smith Police Department realized they were sending Mr. Price to his death when they arrested him. Had they done so, it’s possible they would have sought alternatives to the arrest.

But because he ended up in a facility that did not provide him with adequate care, supervision, or a timely day in court, he died in a way that we see in third-world countries. Implementing better oversight mechanisms within the legal system can ensure that mistakes are caught before they lead to injustice for such individuals.

Resources For Further Information

If you believe you or someone you know has been wrongfully imprisoned then the following resources may be helpful:

You can also reach out to a reputable defense attorney like John Teakell. Mr. Teakell has many years of experience in the justice system on both sides of the dispute. He knows how prosecutors think, and he knows the evidence to watch for that can win his clients their freedom. Contact him today to get started with your case.

Have a challenging case? Get a free consultation by our experts today!