Monday, March 7, 2011

Sheriff John Layton Orders Changes at Privately-Run Jails

Marion County Sheriff John Layton
Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I have long been critical of the privately-run jails in Marion County, which have operated without any oversight by Sheriff Frank Anderson.  Scores of  individuals have died at CCA's Jail #2, including one who died from untreated pneumonia.  Others inmates have been denied medical care by the private companies wanting to maximize their profits., 

During the entire eight years of Sheriff Anderson's tenure, I'm not aware of a single investigation he ever conducted in response to a death at a privately run jail facility.  Whenever we would complain about that, and the fact that the private jails weren't following the rules, Sheriff Anderson would point to the audits conducted by the American Correctional Association.  The ACA is a pro-corrections privatization group whose audits are aimed at providing cover for possible lawsuits and for public officials.

Two months into his tenure, new Sheriff John Layton faced a death at one of the privately-run jails, Liberty Hall, a facility for women which is run by the Community Education Centers.  The woman, Amber Redden collapsed and died at Liberty Hall from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.    Unlike his predecessor, Sheriff Layton immediately took action, conducting an investigation and ordering other measures be taken. The Indianapolis Star reports:
Sheriff John Layton is shaking up Marion County's privately run jails after staff at Liberty Hall two weeks ago let hours slip away before they called an ambulance for an inmate who later died from pregnancy complications.

"The bottom line is it can't happen again, and we're going to make sure that it doesn't," Layton said.

Layton pulled all pregnant inmates into the Marion County Jail; increased county supervision and control over Liberty Hall and the privately run Marion County Jail II; and ordered external evaluations of the facilities to be conducted by former sheriffs Frank Anderson and Jack Cottey."
I commend Sheriff Layton for taking his job taking his oversight responsibilities seriously and immediately taking action in this matter.  He's already done more on the job in two months to address issues we have often litigated that Sheriff Anderson ever did in eight years.  I don't quite get why Sheriff Anderson would be conducting the "outside evaluation" given his history of disinterest in how the private companies run the jails, but he may be better in that role than he was as Sheriff.

I do find the Liberty Hall's response interesting as detailed in the article:
Liberty Hall's investigation determined that no policies or procedures were violated, and officials said they think Redden received the "legally acceptable standard of care," said [Murray] Clark, who expressed sympathy to Redden's family.

Clark did not give the name of the staff member who was fired or a specific reason for the firing.

Sheriff's officials did not release details of an internal investigation into the death, but they confirmed that Redden began complaining of symptoms sometime before lunch was served.

Chief Deputy Eva Talley-Sanders, who supervised the investigation, confirmed that staff took Redden to lunch in a wheelchair after she had complained of what the staff described as severe flu-like symptoms.

The employees who were there were not trained in the medical field," Layton said. "They thought she was having a terrible episode of the flu."

It was a Sunday, and medical staff was not at the facility, but a nurse and doctor are always on call. Sheriff's officials said Liberty Hall officers phoned the nurse and gave Redden an over-the-counter painkiller.
I litigated a case involving Liberty Hall.  A former nurse was detained at the facility and she was very critical of the lack of medical care at the facility.  One of the things I recall her saying was that there was no medical staff on duty during the evenings and weekends for the hundreds of women confined at the facility, and that guards were passing out medication.  She said that medical staff is required to be on duty 24/7 and that it was illegal under Indiana law for anyone but trained medical personnel to hand out prescription medication.

Contrary to Liberty Hall's claim that no rules were violated, the fact is Indiana Administrative Code requires that county jails have 24 hour emergency medical care. (210 IAC 3-1-11(i).   It appears that requirement along with other provisions in 210 IAC 3-1-11 were violated.  One I have often complained about is that private jail providers are required to continue with medication (210 IAC 3-1-11(j) when individuals are detained in jail.  (This is different than if someone is incarcerated in a prison.  In prison, the medical staff have a lot more discretion regarding the inmate's medical care than with a jail.) Instead, the private companies often substitute cheaper medication than that prescribed by an outsider doctor or, in some cases, deny medication completely if it is too expensive. 

With regard to Marion County Jail #2 run by CCA, Sheriff Anderson had actually allowed the private company to eliminate a round of medication (going from three to two) so CCA could hire fewer nurses and maximize profits. In short, if you were supposed to take that blood pressure medication pill three times a day for hypertension, well too're only getting it twice.

Clark does note that Liberty Hall is making  "voluntary changes to improve care for inmates and began employing trained medical staff on Sundays."  These private correctional companies never "volunteered" to make changes to their practices under Sheriff Anderson, despite injuries and deaths.  It is a wonder what some actual oversight will accomplish.   Thank you Sheriff Layton.


Sean Shepard said...

While the circumstances are unfortunate, it is good to see what appears to be some positive action being taken by the new sheriff and to see it being noted here.

We need more opportunities to pass along some kudos to elected officials rather than always being down on and critical of them (which they make far too easy most of the time).

Jon E. Easter said...

Well, to borrow an old cliche, "There's a new Sheriff in town."