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Prison guard seeks PTSD disability over brother's imprisonment

Associated Press

CHESTER, Ill. - An Illinois prison guard whose brother is serving a life sentence for strangling his wife and children has applied for a disability award for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Menard Correctional Center guard Brad Coleman told the Belleville News-Democrat that constant worrying about his brother, Christopher Coleman, caused him to have PTSD. Seeing other prisoners serving life while he was working as a guard reminded him of his brother, who was convicted in the 2009 deaths of Sheri Coleman and the couple's sons, ages 11 and 9.

"It's the (prison) environment. It weighs on you," Brad Coleman said when asked about the disability claim. "I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this."

The guard's disability claim is under review, but could pay $32,000 a year for seven years from the largely taxpayer-funded State Employees' Retirement System. A doctor signed off on the disability application.

The 35-year-old Brad Coleman is on unpaid leave and works as a barber and part-time police officer in the southwestern Illinois village of Chester.

Chester Police Chief M. Ryan Coffey said "the circumstances of this situation are unique," adding that he doesn't believe Coleman poses any danger to the public.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer confirmed Coleman applied for disability on Nov. 24, but couldn't provide medical information because of federal privacy laws.

Tim Blair of the State Employees' Retirement System said that Coleman's disability application is categorized as non-occupational, a classification used for disabling events outside of the workplace, such as a car accident.

"He has applied and his application is being considered consistently with other applications," Blair said, citing privacy laws prohibiting him from giving any other details.

Christopher Coleman is serving a life sentence in an out-of-state prison. During his trial, prosecutors said he carried out the killings to further a love affair and keep a high-paying security job with a global ministry, and that he staged the crime scene to make it appear that the killer was an intruder. Brad Coleman attended the two-week trial.

PTSD symptoms can include flashbacks, anxiety, irritability and insomnia after a traumatic event.

A Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry, who was told about Coleman's situation, said "it would be a stretch" to confirm his disability claim. But Dr. Roger K. Pitman of Harvard added that he couldn't diagnose a patient without an examination.

Coleman told the Belleville newspaper that he can no longer handle the prison guard job.

"It's been a nightmare," he said.

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