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Sources link two inmate alleged suicides to Correctional Officer, charges of having sex with inmates

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 7:59 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -The deaths of Michael Noland in March, followed by Michael Hand in April, have many people asking questions about what happened.

Current and former staff at the Penitentiary tell the I-Team the same story: both were on suicide awareness watch and a series of errors could have contributed to their deaths. Both were in a special housing unit for investigative reasons.

We talked to a current inmate, who had a friendship with both Noland and Hand. He wrote an official request for mental health care for both of them.

“I’ve literally taken razor blades away from them, stopped them from swallowing things different combs and batteries and razors and anything that they swallow are taken away from them, many times,” said the inmate.

The I-Team also received this letter from a current inmate describing concerns over Noland’s care while being on a suicide awareness list. The protocol would have required a camera on the cell, a roommate, or special clothing that couldn’t be used for an attempt by hanging. The letter continues:

“During the lowest period of Mikey’s depression, he was isolated, confined in a single cell, surrounded by nothing but his vicious thoughts, fueled by another inmate down the run bullying him.”

After Noland died of what the Department of Corrections called an apparent suicide, the inmate says Hand went into a deeper depression.

“Hand was freaking out about the whole suicide down there and ended up doing it not too long after,” said the inmate.

He also says mental health requests go unanswered.

“But things that they could do is mental health is very very very overwhelmed or they don’t give a s**t. Like it’s been two months since I’ve been writing to go up there and it was not suicidal ideology but it was self-harm... I like to do is usually Nick with a razor,” said the inmate.

Every interview we’ve conducted about both alleged suicides shares one common denominator: Rian Fitzpatrick, the correctional officer who was fired for improper conduct, including having sex with a prisoner. Fitzpatrick faces felony charges and is scheduled for trial in December.

In a statement from the Attorney General’s Office, the investigation is still underway. The D-C-I was brought into the investigation of Fitzpatrick in March and that “an individual connected to the case has passed away.”

Whenever a correctional officer needs to leave to accompany an inmate to the hospital for self-harm, there is one less officer on-site at the prison, in an atmosphere where staff is already critically low.

“Like if someone is going to the extent of trying to kill themselves numerous times. You think that they would be on a scheduled visit where they come up to mental health and you know just decompress and go through things that are positive in their life, you know, stuff that they can do to build structure in their life so that they can heal and get better,” said the inmate.

The South Dakota Department of Corrections confirms the suicides but has no other comment.

The family of Michael Hand provided this statement to Dakota News Now:

“We want justice for Mikey. Mikey was a son, a brother, a nephew, a grandson and an uncle. Due to his limited cognitive level, he was manipulated and abused by prison staff from the time he arrived at the Sioux Falls prison. He filed numerous written complaints to the warden. We do not believe that he took his own life. We were told three different versions of his alleged suicide. We find the South Dakota State Prison to be negligent in their care of Mikey and responsible for his death.”

--Family of Michael Hand

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