R. Kelly, the disgraced R&B singer found guilty by a federal jury on nine counts of racketeering and sex trafficking last September, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last Wednesday. The 55-year-old Chicago-based singer is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York. (Among his neighbors, Ghislaine Maxwell).
On Friday, Kelly’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, told CNN the singer was placed on suicide watch by the prison. She claimed that her client had been particularly anxious about such a decision, and decried “the irony of putting someone on suicide watch when they’re not suicidal actually causes more harm.”
Kelly’s team issued a claim hoping to prevent this special treatment, which read “MDC-Brooklyn has a policy of punishing high profile inmates by placing them under the harsh conditions of suicide watch even though they are not suicidal.” Bonjean also accused the prison of being “unprofessional,” allegedly laughing and hanging up the phone when calls were made to ask about Kelly’s status.
Government prosecutors, however, responded over the weekend, defending the decision. Attorneys for the prison wrote that Kelly’s claims should be dismissed because he “fails to show a substantial likelihood of success for relief.” They added that Kelly’s “allegations of irreparable harm are entirely conclusory and speculative.”
Suicide watch in a federal prison, while ultimately intended to protect the prisoner’s safety, includes many strict rules, and is intended only for short periods. An Associated Press report from 2019 describes prisoners with their clothes and bed linens replaced by heavy, rip-resistant smocks and blankets (to reduce the risk of hanging), meals restricted to finger food (to negate the use of utensils), and confinement for up to 23 hours a day, with no showers or exercise.
Kelly faces a second federal trial in August in Illinois. He is accused of charges for producing child pornography and luring minors into sex acts.