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Man's vegetative state blamed on conditions at Oklahoma County jail

Constant overcrowding at the Oklahoma County jail and administrative indifference to the hazardous conditions inside the facility are to blame for a former inmate living out his days in a vegetative state, a lawsuit filed by the man's family claims.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: September 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm •  Published: October 1, 2013
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Constant overcrowding at the Oklahoma County jail and administrative indifference to hazardous conditions inside the facility are to blame for a former inmate living out his days in a vegetative state, a lawsuit filed by the man's family claims.

The lawsuit alleges that Edward Levi Kuslak, 26, was detained at the Oklahoma County jail following a September 2008 car accident involving his fiancee, who died. The suit was filed Sept. 20 in federal court.

Within days of Kuslak's incarceration, he attempted suicide by hanging himself. The suit claims Kuslak is now brain dead and lives his life in a vegetative state.

Kuslak's parents are suing Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel and the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners for an unspecified amount of money.

The lawsuit references a July 2008 report on the Oklahoma County jail prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice. The report, which took years to compile, found that “the Oklahoma County jail posed a serious risk for suicidal detainees.”

Kuslak was incarcerated at the jail about six weeks after the report was released, records show. He was never charged with any crime related to the accident.

“The report found that the jail's classification system was compromised by ‘overcrowded conditions at the facility' and that the jail ‘does not have enough available cells to match the classification level of the detainees,'” the family's attorney, Linda Alexander, wrote in a petition.

“This coincides with the movement of Levi from the medical floor (13) to a cell on floor 12, without clearance of medical personnel for purposes of ‘population control,' and without any medical basis.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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