By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
The Disability Rights Center – NH filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court seeking access to the death investigation of Phillip Borcuk, 34, who was a resident at the Residential Treatment Unit at the NH State Prison for Men when he died in December.
A DRC news release describes the prison’s Residential Treatment Unit, which is upstairs from the Secure Psychiatric Unit on the prison grounds in Concord, as a specialized unit for inmates with mental illness who are unable to function in the general inmate population.
The DRC cited news reports that said Borcuk was mentally ill and died alone in his cell due to self-injurious behavior at the NH State Prison for Men in Concord. The DRC didn’t state his name in the release, but the Department of Corrections released his name and his mug shot after his death Dec. 6, 2017.
The suit was filed in federal court after the Department of Corrections “refused to comply with repeated requests for records over the last two months,” the DRC said.
The Department of Corrections said after his death that an autopsy had been conducted by the state’s medical examiner and they were awaiting toxicology results to determine manner of death.
“Mr. Borcuk was admitted from Sullivan County Superior Court into Departmental custody in 2012 for charges of Operating after being certified as a Habitual Offender, Theft by Unauthorized Taking and Assault by Prisoner. His parole eligibility date was December 5, 2018 with a maximum release date of December 5, 2019. His next of kin have been notified,” the Department of Corrections said at the time.
DRC is seeking an injunction against the Department’s interference with a federally authorized investigation in violation of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act, Tuesday’s release said. The PAIMI Act authorizes DRC to investigate suspected abuse and neglect of individuals with mental illness and obligates facilities such as prisons to cooperate by promptly producing requested records.
“It’s critical that DRC be able to fully investigate suspected abuse and neglect of people with disabilities in New Hampshire,” said Andrew Milne, DRC staff attorney. “Without prompt access to records, we cannot assess whether individuals’ rights are being respected, nor can we fulfill our federally mandated role to protect and advocate for people with mental illness.”
DRC asked the court to order the prompt production of requested records so that DRC can investigate the suspected neglect and subsequent death of an individual with mental illness.
According to his obituary, Borcuk was born in Claremont and lived in Cornish before being incarcerated.
He enjoyed spending time with his family and liked to fish and play horseshoes, the obituary said.
Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with disabilities across New Hampshire. Disability Rights Center staff help people with disabilities to achieve employment, education, housing, and health care goals.