By Rick Sallinger

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – 31 year old Ryan Partridge is blind after gouging out his own eyes while behind bars.

It happened while he was in the Boulder County Jail late last year. A lawsuit on his behalf was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver Thursday.

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(credit: CBS)

Partridge’s family says jail staff knew he suffered from mental illness. He had been in the facility before and was being kept in a cell alone.

He told CBS 4 investigator Rick Sallinger he could have been prevented from harming himself.

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Ryan Partridge (credit: CBS)

“I don’t like solitary. I don’t think this would have happened had I not been in solitary,” he said.

Partridge was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He believed the CIA had been telling him to dig his eyes out. He had previously twice attempted suicide while in jail, once jumping off the second tier of the jail. He also knocked out several teeth hitting his head against a toilet.

Afraid he was being poisoned, Partridge refused his medication.

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(credit: CBS)

“I remember them asking if I wanted medication. I didn’t know what for and I didn’t trust anyone,” he said.

His father Richard and mother Shelley tearfully told CBS4 the jail’s staff should have done more to help their son.

“I would never see anyone in medical distress that I wouldn’t come to their aid,” Richard said.

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(credit: CBS)

The lawsuit claims the Boulder Sheriff’s Department could have sought an order for emergency and forced medication but did not.

Efforts were made to get him to the state hospital in Pueblo, but that did not happen before Partridge gouged his eyes out.

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Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle (credit: CBS)

Sheriff Joe Pelle would not talk about the lawsuit or the specific case, but in general terms said their hands are tied in dealing with mentally ill inmates.

“Sometimes they can be treated with medication, but if they are not willing to take medication, jails are not equipped to force medication like a hospital would be… to stabilize people,” Pelle said.

The sheriff added they do their best to help those inmates diagnosed as mentally ill.

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CBS4’s Rick Sallinger interviews David Lane. (credit: CBS)

Partridge’s attorney David Lane says this case is designed to improve treatment of the mentally ill while in jails.

“The only thing they did to Ryan Partridge when he acted out in a psychotic state was to tase him and beat him and put him back into his cell,” Lane said. “Our goal is to send a message to jailers and prison officials nationwide that when they are deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of inmates it is going to cost them dearly.”

Lane said his client was tased while restrained in a chair on one occasion.

Pelle says 30 percent of his prisoners are diagnosed as mentally ill who should often be housed elsewhere.

“We’re trying to treat them and stabilize them and keep them from self harm before can get into a hospital,” he said.

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(credit: CBS)

Partridge is permanently blind. His mother, Shelley, realizes he faces a great challenge, but says he is very brave.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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