Inmate Michael Watts, 34, Died After Being Found Unresponsive In Cell At The Federal Correctional Institution Mendota

FRESNO, CALIFORNIA (December 20, 2023) – A 34-year-old inmate identified as Michael Watts has tragically died at the Federal Correctional Institution Mendota.

Fresno County officials are saying that the incident began around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday. Correctional officers noticed that Michael Watts was unresponsive.

Medical staff entered the cell and began life-saving measures. Sadly, these efforts were not successful.

Michael Watts was later pronounced dead by EMS personnel. A full investigation remains ongoing at this time.


Liability For Fresno County Inmate Deaths

Prisons can be truly terrible places even in the best of circumstances. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, “Prison ages incarcerated people by 10 to 15 years on average, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to chronic health conditions earlier in life than would be expected. As we see in the new prison mortality data, these chronic conditions – cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and respiratory diseases – are among the most frequent causes of death in state prisons.” There are a number of factors that could contribute to an inmate’s death.

  • Health conditions or chronic illnesses
  • Violence at the hands of other inmates
  • Excessive force involving prison guards
  • Drug overdoses involving dangerous opioids such as fentanyl

Jails are supposed to take reasonable steps to protect inmates and keep them healthy. This includes providing inmates with healthcare for all of their medical conditions. When a jail is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of an inmate, this could form the basis of a constitutional claim. It is important that evidence is properly preserved after any in-custody death.

  • Eye witnesses should be interviewed.
  • Any requests for care that an inmate made should be reviewed.
  • Autopsy results should be examined.
  • A thorough investigation into the death should be conducted.

A large number of inmate deaths are completely preventable. This is particularly true when inmates die due to drug overdoses. It is never a good sign when an inmate is found unresponsive. This often indicates that they were not being properly cared for or did not receive periodic welfare checks. The family of any person that died in custody may have legal recourse through a civil claim. A civil rights attorney can examine the unique facts of your case and let you know what your legal options are.


Investigating Fresno County Inmate Deaths

We at the Sehat Law Firm extend our deepest condolences to the family of Michael Watts. Any person that may have more information about what happened should reach out to investigators. There needs to be some accountability for what took place.

Do you need more information about a Fresno County inmate death? Our team of civil rights attorneys are here to help in any way that we can. We care deeply that inmates are aware of their rights and that those rights are being protected. Whether you just have legal questions or need any type of support we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at (949) 825-5200.


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