Atty. Antonio Ponvert being interviewed by John Hockenberry for Dateline NBC

Dateline NBC reports on mentally ill men whose deaths were caught on video inside Connecticut prisons

June 1, 2004

Atty. Antonio Ponvert (left) being interviewed by John Hockenberry for Dateline NBC

NBC's John Hockenberry: "What if a member of your family were a delusional, paranoid mentally ill person who was in prison instead of a mental hospital. What's the worst that could happen? . . ."

Debbie Washington: "Some days I wake up and don't believe that it really happened and, just, it's always there in my mind."

Hockenberry: "Only 12 days after Debbie Washington's mentally ill nephew, Tim Perry, entered a Connecticut prison, he was dead. Perry was a paranoid schizophrenic who had just turned 21 years old. While being treated at a state mental hospital, he was accused of attacking a social worker. He was sent to prison to await trial. But according to handwritten prison records, the hospital staff had another reason for sending him to the prison. They wanted to, quote, teach him a lesson."

Washington: "I said to myself, I will find out what happened to him, if it killed me."

Hockenberry: "Washington hired an attorney, Antonio Ponvert who helped obtain official records of what happened to Timothy Perry. According to the statements of the corrections officers, Perry was yelling and banging on the windows of the prison common room; told to return to his cell, he pushed one of the correction guards. That triggered a Code Orange, assault on a correction officer."