by G. Brown
Michael Jefferson’s family wants answers. The 27 year old Black man was a loved brother and son who’s mother Janel Charles is mourning his death while trying to get a handle on how he died. Jefferson suffered from bipolar disorder since he was first diagnosed as a child. His unfortunate mental condition led down an all too familiar path when the illness isn’t treated properly and misunderstood by many. Jefferson ended up in the Menard Correctional Center as an inmate where he was awaiting trial on gun charges.
Earlier this month, the mom said she received a call from the penitentiary informing her that Michael was found in his cell “unresponsive”. He was pronounced dead on arrival when rushed to the hospital. The horrors of what Michael endured and what led to his death wouldn’t be known to his mother until her son’s body arrived at the funeral home. Charles says Michael’s face and body were swollen including a lump on his head and even in his genital area. Bruises covered his lip and back. Charles cried as she describes the condition her son’s body was in; “My son has a hole in his neck as big as a fist, skin missing off his back. His genital area looked I don’t know what happened if they burned him, stomped him, kicked him. He has a knot on the side of his head and his face is huge.”
The pictures are heartbreaking but Michael’s mom shared them on Facebook because she wants to know what really happened to her son. Charles told a local Chicago news station, “Somebody needs to tell me something. My son was 27 and healthy. There was nothing wrong with my son, other than his bipolar. Whatever went on in there, he did not deserve to die that way. He was a human being. He had people loved him. I loved my son. His brothers loved him. He died like an animal.”
Charles says when she asked the local coroner for answers he told her “I didn’t see anything unusual.” The Illinois Department of Corrections issued a statement explaining the bruises, swelling and wounds were created by the autopsy. The statement says, “Preliminary information reveals there was no trauma to Mr. Jefferson’s body when he was transported from Menard Correctional Center to Chester Memorial Hospital on July 11th. It is the Department’s understanding that the wounds seen in the pictures of Mr. Jefferson’s body are consistent with those incurred during an autopsy and the swelling a result of the body’s rapid decomposition.” The DOC is now manning an internal investigation, but it more a routine protocol than out of concern to help Michael’s family understand the circumstances of his death.
How many Michael’s are locked away to be forgotten because they’re Black, poor or mentally ill? Michael’s death may not have been the result of foul play, but shouldn’t someone be able to put his mom’s mind at ease? Michael’s mom has an attorney and they are requesting all surveillance video that may fill in the blanks as to what happened that night at the correctional facility. No one is more desperate for answers than Michael’s mom who says, “No one deserves to die this way.”