***Warning: This story contains graphic content. ****
CHICAGO -- The family of an inmate who died after he was found unresponsive at the Menard Correctional Center is speaking out and claims the 27-year-old was murdered.
Michael Jefferson was serving time at the Menard Correctional Center in for a gun charge. His mother Janel Charles says he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a child. On July 11, Janel received a call from the penitentiary saying her son was found unresponsive in his jail cell. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
When Jefferson’s body was brought back to Chicago by a local funeral home, they saw that Michael’s face and body were swollen. His family says there was blood in his nose and he had a lump on his head. His lip was bruised and so was his back. Even his genitals were swollen and extremely disproportioned.
Graphic pictures were taken of Michael by a family friend and posted to Facebook last week, because Michael’s mother says she wanted the world to see what happened to her son. Since then they’ve been shared thousands of times with many commenting that it appears that Michael was beaten. However, Janel was told her son was in segregation at the time of his death and was being checked on every 30 minutes.
“Somebody needs to tell me something. My son was 27 and healthy,” she told WGN News. “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.”
Community activists and attorneys are now coming to the family’s aid.
“He died under their watch,” said activist Ja’Mal Green. “I’m not going to say killed. We don’t know the facts yet. But he died under their watch and so we need answers. We need video. Why did he even die in the first place?”
A spokesperson from the Illinois Dept of Corrections says they are now conducting an internal investigation into Michael's death.
They released a statement saying, in part:
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.