Friday, February 27, 2009

Contrasting Sheriffs; More Deaths at Indiana Jails

Today's Indianapolis Star this morning reports on the death of an inmate at the Hancock County jail, a county directly east of Marion County-Indianapolis. Brian Bales, 36, was booked into the jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. He, however, passed a breathalyzer before being taken to jail. At that point, according to the article, they should have investigated whether a physical condition, and not drugs, was causing Bale's erratic driving and behavior. While a hospital staff member drew Bales' blood, a doctor never examined him and a nurse on duty never consulted with a doctor regarding his condition. A day and a half later Bales, who was also a diabetic, had died from what was later determined to be gastrointestinal bleeding.

The Star article shows Hancock County Sheriff Bud Gray immediately taking action. As a result of his preliminary investigation, he fired a jail nurse and placed a deputy on administrative leave pending an investigation. Sheriff Gray stated:
"Based on vital signs that were taken, a doctor should have been called," Gray said. "We have a doctor on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we pay for that service. That's why we have him , for situations like this one. (The jail nurse) should have contacted the doctor on call, and that didn't happen."
Sheriff Gray should be commended for his immediate and thorough response to this inmate's death. It stands in sharp contrast to the continual non-response by Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson to the numerous deaths and injuries in the jails in Marion County. For example, five inmates died at Jail #2, run by Corrections Corporation of America, in 2006. Sheriff Anderson did no investigation on any of them, and has not even audited the facility in at least three years. Despite the deaths in 2006, he gave CCA a brand new 10 year contract in 2007. From 2005 through 2008, there were thirteen lawsuits filed against CCA for problems in its operation of Jail #2

There are problems in the other Marion County jails, usually related to the privatization of medical services. Inmates have died of week-long untreated pneumonia, not getting heart medication, not getting blood pressure medication, etc. Other inmates have been injured by not getting their prescribed medication. Not surprisingly, private companies like to make money and aren't quick to hand out expensive medication to inmates few people outside of their families care about.

But if people aren't sympathetic to the inmates, they should at the very least be concerned about the cost to the taxpayers. When these private companies providing medical services at jails get sued, so does the Marion County Sheriff for failing to supervise the privatization contracts and force these companies to follow the contract and the law. Even though there is an indemnity provision in the CCA contract, for example, that would allow the Marion County Sheriff to recoup litigation costs on behalf of taxpayers, it is never enforced. During late 2008, the Sheriff's office got council permission to transfer money from one account to another in order to pay CCA for inmate meals and an inflation adjustment CCA had decided to take. As I recounted on the pages of this blog, the reason stated to the Council for the payment was bogus. CCA, and not the Marion County Sheriff, pays for inmate meals and the inflation adjustment in the contract is automatic and takes place on 1/1 of every year. I have tried to obtain open records to see if this taxpayer money was, in fact, destined for the pockets of CCA's lawyers, Barnes & Thornburg, but CCA has refused to comply with the open records request, even though these are documents the public acccess counselor has determined need to be provided in the past.

Contrasting sheriffs. On the one hand you have Hancock Sheriff Bud Gray who investigated the matter and took responsibility for what happened in his jail. Then you have Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson who, despite the inordinate amount of deaths and injuries in his jails, won't lift a finger to investigate the matter or hold anyone responsible, including himself.


Leslie Sourwine said...


You forgot to mention that CCA Jail II not only doesn't give inmates their medication for serious illnesses but they also give the inmates the wrong medication. Those people running the jail and Sheriff Anderson need to be charged with murder every time an inmate dies from their negligence. They did it in Texas; they can do it in Indianapolis! There is just no excuse for the treatment of the inmates at the hands of criminals.

What the public doesn’t understand is that when the inmates have diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV or antibiotic resistant staff infection, MRSA we are all exposed to them when they are released because the jail doctor didn’t treat the illnesses. In addition the guy that is falsely arrested is exposed the minute they put him in jail. All of us should think about that, you know the person who pushed that grocery cart before you might have been a released inmate that was denied critical medical care. Or maybe he’s the guy at McDonalds or some other restaurant fixing your food. While he was in jail he got an infection that turned green, pussy and seeped blood and the doctor ignored it! He didn’t even fill the prescription that the man might have received from Wishard doctors. If you think I jest think again. I have two complaints against the jail doctor and CCA from two men who both had infections. One man’s infection was from a spider bite. The nurses used to jerk the bandage off without washing their hands first and ripping the newly formed scab off. Sometimes they didn’t cleanse it for days contrary to Wishards doctor’s orders or they made him clean and bandage it himself. The other man received his infection after getting a hair cut at the jail and they still made him work in the kitchen for Aramark even though his infection was seeping while he worked.

The thing that disturbs me the most is you have a Sheriff responsible for the jail who was not too long ago released from the supervision of the court for violations at Jail I who is allowing the very same things he was reprimanded on Jail I for to go on at Jail II. You also have the Mayor who does nothing to correct the problem and in fact hands money to CCA to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. Finally you have JUDGES sitting on the bench who have the power to order CCA to follow their contract and they too ignore the problems going on at the jail. That news link I posted yesterday is just a sample of what we have sitting on the benches all over America. Justice will only be done when all those criminals are sitting in jail next to the man who was denied medical care by the criminal corporation who values a dollar over human life.

Leslie Sourwine says canceling the contract with CCA is the only justice for what they have done over the years to the men that were incarcerated in their facility.

Leslie Sourwine said...

One thing I’ve noticed on your blog is that the public is hesitant to comment on the subject of inmate abuse. Inmate abuse is a serious issue that the public needs to address because of the taxpayer’s dollars that go to waste when facilities like CCA-Marion County Jail II are allowed to continue their policy of denying medical care to inmates. I understand that most the public opinion may be that these people in the private jails and prisons deserve the treatment they are receiving. Maybe they do? But do the taxpayers deserve to have more tax dollars spent on correcting the wrongs that are being committed against fellow human beings? Take for example when inmates are fed food lacking proper nutrition. This results in the inmate being prone to more illnesses which results in more visits to the doctor. Or in the case of CCA it doesn’t result in more visits to the doctor but results in the inmate dying or being handicapped by the lack of medical care. Law suits are filed and in many of those cases they are settled for a good sum of money. Taxpayers pay for the inmate’s incarceration. Taxpayers pay for the food fed to those who are incarcerated. Taxpayers pay for the medical care inmates are supposed to receive. Finally taxpayers pay for the law suits filed against the city and the sheriff who are responsible for making sure that the inmates are receiving adequate care. It seems to me that taxpayers would be ahead to put pressure on the sheriff and city government to make sure that the inmates receive that care thus in the long run saving taxpayer’s dollars. It’s like trying to cut the expense of your metered water bill by leaving the faucet running! Every time an inmate is denied the adequate care described by the U.S. Supreme Court that faucet is running and taxpayer’s dollars are going down the drain.


Unknown said...

My brother Jeffrey A Lanham died at the Morgan County Jail on August 30, 2008. He was arrested for the same thing the man in Hancock County was arrested for. My brother was 24 years old. He was booked at 2:16am and was dead by 9am. I have been investigating his death for six months now. I have witness after witness who claim that my brother was suffering from a medical emergency and no one cared enough to get him medical attention. My brother was thrown in the drunk tank and left to choke on his own vomit. I have an autopsy that says he had a cut on the back of his head and 5 bruises. I have witnesses to claim my brother was beaten up by a jail guard in the shower. I am thankful that the Hancock County Sheriff cared enough to take immediate action. Our Sheriff has done nothing. I mean nothing. Morgan County has kept a tight lid on this case. Something has to be done. I refuse to believe that in our country you can be arrested and go to jail for cruelty to an animal but not a human being. Just because my brother died at the Morgan County Jail does not mean that they are above the law.

chevyman1 said...

I was arrested for failure to appear and placed in jail. At the time I was recovering from ankle surgery I was placed in drunk tank for 4 days (charges not alcohol related)I suffered complications while in jail (badly swollen ankle) when I asked to be taken to hospital to be looked at my request was denied.I was told my condition was not their problem.I was also refused my medication.something needs to be done about this inmates are citizens too.This occurred in southern Indiana Knox County to be exact.

chevyman1 said...

I can relate to this I was arrested in December and taken to jail where I spent 4 days I was under doctors care for surgery on my ankle .I was placed in drunk tank the entire time although my arrest was not alcohol related it was for failure to appear.When I asked to be taken to hospital after complications (badly swollen ankle). I was told my condition was not their problem .Also refused medication by jail staff.