In December 2017, the New Hampshire Department of Corrections issued a news release stating that Phillip Borcuk, an inmate at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men (NHSPM), died after engaging in “self-injurious” behavior. Three years later, Borcuk’s estate is suing the DOC and six staff members in connection with his death.
Had Borcuk not died, he would have been eligible for parole the following December and with a maximum release date of December 5, 2019 – one day less than two years from his death date. At the time of his death, he had been in prison for five years. He was charged with operating after certification as a habitual offender, assault by prisoner, and theft by unauthorized taking.
According to the lawsuit, Borcuk died after corrections officers tasered him, hit him, threw him onto the cell floor, and then tied his hands behind his back to restrain him. The lawsuit states Borcuk was a victim of a criminal justice and correctional system not trained or equipped to treat those with mental illness. Unspecified compensatory and punitive damages are sought.
Banging His Head on the Sink
Borcuk, who suffered from mental illness, was housed in the NMSPM’s residential treatment unit. Inmates in the residential treatment unit are not able to function in the general prison population.
Borcuk’s Facebook postings reveal some of his turmoil.
In one post, he writes, “(k from now on im taking my meds everyday cause i seemed to have forgoten a few days somehow???” He responds to a friend’s reply with, “ohhhh man i remember very little over the course of the weekend?i left for youre house woke up after an od in hospital???oh man.” He also shared a post reading, “It’s hard to explain to someone who has no clue. It’s a daily struggle being in pain or feeling sick on the inside while you look fine on the outside.”
A New Hampshire State Police investigative report found that corrections officers witnessed Borcuk banging on his head on the sink in his cell and vomiting blood into the toilet. He was bleeding from his mouth and nose. Blood covered the cell. Officers told him to “get down,” and Borcuk responded with a “fighting stance.” The tasering then began, followed by the beating and being thrown to the floor.
After being handcuffed, Borcuk was placed on his stomach on a stretcher. Although he was en route to the medical unit, he suddenly stopped breathing, and CPR was performed. He was then taken to Concord Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The lawsuit says it was well-established that people placed in such a position – rear-cuffed, restrained, and lying on their stomach – are at greater risk of positional asphyxiation. All of the defendants knew or should have known of the risk to Borcuk, the lawsuit states. The defendants are accused of using excessive force on Borcuk.
Inmates have the right not to be abused. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.