The Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth, Maine. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

The husband of a Bangor woman who died by suicide while an inmate at the Hancock County Jail in October 2018 is suing the county, saying jail staff didn’t provide her with adequate mental health services.

The lawsuit alleges that county officials, including Sheriff Scott Kane, and jail staff violated the rights of the inmate, Monica J. Johnson, by failing to provide her adequate medical and mental health care while she was incarcerated at the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. It also alleges that jail staff were not properly trained and supervised and that the county’s negligence and recklessness led to Johnson’s suicide at the jail.

The civil lawsuit was filed in federal court in Bangor last fall by Johnson’s husband, Brewer resident Stewart H. Carney Jr., and by an attorney representing Johnson’s estate. Other defendants named in the lawsuit include health care provider Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc., a licensed clinical social worker and a psychiatrist who offer services at the jail.

The defendants in the lawsuit have filed responses denying the allegations. Attorneys on each side of the lawsuit continue to gather information that could factor into the case, which could go to trial this fall, according to information in the federal court’s online document database.

Johnson, who was 38 when she died, was one of five people arrested Sept. 21, 2018, in a drug bust by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in Bucksport and Orland. Johnson and two other people were arrested on drug possession charges while Carney, who is now 39, and a man from Holyoke, Massachusetts, were each arrested on drug trafficking charges.

Carney later pleaded guilty to unlawful trafficking in drugs and served nine months behind bars.

In his complaint, Carney alleges that Johnson was suffering from depression and anxiety and that she had urgently asked to speak with a psychiatrist while incarcerated at the jail. She had suffered a traumatic brain injury about 18 months before she died and had previously been hospitalized for mental illness, Carney wrote in the complaint.

Attorneys involved in the lawsuit did not respond Monday to requests for comment.

Since Johnson’s suicide, another Hancock County Jail inmate died following a suicide attempt at the jail. Tyler S. Poole, 29, of Bangor died on Dec. 15, 2020, at a Bangor hospital after he was found unresponsive at the jail.

Kane said in January that Maine State Police are investigating Poole’s death, which is standard procedure when any inmate dies, and that a detective in his department also is investigating to determine whether staff followed jail policies and procedures before and after Poole’s death. Information about the status of those investigations were unavailable Monday.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....