By Mark Wilson

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held on September 20, 2013 that an Arkansas jail guard was not entitled to qualified immunity for his deliberate indifference to a detainee’s serious medical condition which resulted in the detainee’s death.

On December 18, 2008, Saline County deputy sheriff Stephen Furr arrested Johnny Dale Thompson, Jr. During the arrest, Deputy Furr discovered an empty Xanax bottle that indicated it had been filled with 60 pills two days earlier. Thompson, who was slurring his words, admitted to taking medication and slept in the patrol car, but was easily awakened at the jail.

Jail guard Ulenzen C. King conducted Thompson’s booking process. King noted that Thompson appeared intoxicated; he asked to sit down but nearly fell out of the chair. He was unable to sign his name and “couldn’t even answer questions that Officer King was asking him.” King wrote “Too Intox to Sign” on the booking sheet.

Sometime after Thompson was placed in a cell at 7:42 p.m., another detainee alerted King that Thompson needed help, but King did nothing.

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker Kevin McCauley is a medical doctor and recovering alcoholic/drug addict. He has spent the last ten-years studying addiction and the theories behind the causes of addiction. He imaginatively uses the backdrop of some of Utah’s most beautiful state park scenery to illustrate his analogy of how the brain of an addicted person…

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By Prison Legal News

The mother of a deceased prisoner, has sued jail and hospital officials over the death of her son at the Marion County Jail (MCJ) in Salem, Oregon.

On June 14, 2010, Robert Haws was arrested for several criminal offenses and a probation violation, according to court records. He was held at the MCJ pending trial.

A month later, Haws was playing basketball with other prisoners at 9:30 a.m. During an argument, fellow prisoner Robert Dailey punched Haws in the jaw, knocking him unconscious and causing his head to hit the concrete floor. Dailey and the other prisoners fled.

Guards did not witness the altercation or see Haws lying unconscious on the basketball court. Approximately fifteen minutes later, Dailey and a few other prisoners returned to check on him.

They dragged Haws to the edge of the court and propped him up. He was barely conscious, vomiting and urinating on himself and bleeding from the nose. Unbeknownst to guards, one prisoner made several trips to the laundry room to replace Haws’ bloody clothing.

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By Prison Legal News

On April 24, 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a former pretrial detainee at the Edgar County Jail (ECJ) in Illinois stated a claim concerning unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the facility. The appellate court also affirmed the dismissal of a claim alleging deliberate indifference to the detainee’s medical needs.

Over a period of two-and-a-half years, Richard D. Budd served three stints at ECJ as a pretrial detainee. He initially spent 45 days at the jail following a 2009 arrest. During that time he was confined with eight other detainees in an area of the facility intended for three; he had to sleep on the floor alongside broken windows and damaged toilets.

After another arrest two years later, Budd was placed in a section of the ECJ where overcrowded conditions again forced him and other prisoners to sleep on the floor amid water from a shower leak. The cells had broken windows, exposed wiring, extensive rust, sinks without running water, toilets covered in mold and spider webs, and a broken heating system. ECJ staff did not provide prisoners with cleaning supplies.

Four months later, Budd was again arrested and had to sleep on the floor in an ECJ cellblock. The cell’s vents were blocked, the heating and air conditioning systems did not work, and detainees were denied recreation. While living in these conditions, something scratched or bit Budd’s leg, resulting in an infection and swelling. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment after contacting the Sheriff.

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By Prison Legal News

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), which provides accreditation for medical services in prisons, jails and other correctional facilities, held its national conference in Nashville, Tennessee from October 28 to 30, 2013.

PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann attended the conference and sat in on several presentations that addressed the issue of telemedicine in the correctional setting. Telemedicine involves medical consultations over a remote connection, typically with a patient speaking with a physician or other medical practitioner on a video screen.

The first NCCHC conference session on telemedicine was conducted by Lawrence Mendel, a physician and acting medical director at the Leavenworth Detention Center, a facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America.

According to Mendel, the first prison telemedicine program began in 1978 at the South Florida Reception Center in conjunction with Jackson Memorial Hospital. The use of telemedicine expanded during the 1990s and it is now used in a variety of settings to provide long-distance medical evaluations and diagnoses.

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By Matt Clarke

Studies have shown that the prevalence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among adult prisoners is more than seven times higher than among non-incarcerated adults.

Traumatic brain injury occurs when a person suffers a disruption of brain function due to an injury – such as an impact from an accident, playing sports or an assault. The most common form of TBI is a concussion.

Medical researchers have discovered that minor TBIs, previously believed to be inconsequential and transient, can result in lasting disabilities. They also discovered that the injuries caused by TBIs are cumulative, in that a series of minor TBIs can lead to major impairment.

Most people who suffer the most minor form of TBI, a concussion, will recover more or less fully within a year. For the 15% who do not, persistent symptoms may include headaches or increased irritability that interferes with everyday functioning.

Sometimes TBI results in behavioral issues that are a direct consequence of the impact that caused the injury. For example, in a vehicle accident or assault, the impact is often to the top front of the head just above the frontal lobes, which regulate behavior. Frontal lobe TBI also can be caused by the brain impacting the skull inside the head, such as during a sudden acceleration or deceleration. This type of injury can result even when the head is not hit directly.

Around 8.5% of the non-incarcerated adult population in the United States has suffered a traumatic brain injury; 2% currently suffer from some form of disability due to past TBI.

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Following the aftermath of the third media worthy shooting in Colorado, the time has arrived for shedding light onto positive news in Colorado.

According to the news media, the federal government is taking a more serious look at how mental illness is connected to violent crimes. Gun control news has accelerated. However, it is evident that stricter gun control laws are not the only answer to this festering problem.  

Colorado recently added their eighth mental illness pilot project to their judicial system. Currently, there are approximately 300 similar projects across the nation.

Leave it to Aspen, Colorado, the innovative ski resort town burrowed in the Rocky Mountains to launch a program designed for mentally ill offenders.

It is no surprise the glitzy town of Aspen would offer such a lavish solution to a problem narrowly addressed within the criminal justice system. Aspen locals have historically nick named the Aspen jail the “Club Med” of the correctional system.

The Wellness Program, generated earlier this year has evolved over the past several months.

The motive of the program is to provide appropriate sentencing alternatives for mentally ill offenders, sentencing alternatives which reduce recidivism rates.  

For people with mental illness, jail rarely is the proper place to get needed treatment, but that is often exactly the place where they repeatedly end up.

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By Prison Legal News

Following a competitive bidding war between California state mental hospitals and state prisons, both seeking psychiatrists to treat their mentally ill patients, the prison system has emerged as the winner – largely due to a federal court order to improve prisoner mental health care. However, the term “winner” is misleading because it is both patients at understaffed state mental hospitals and California taxpayers who turned out to be the losers.

The federal district court in the long-running Coleman case [Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.), Case No. CIV S-90-0520 LKK JFM P] found that a major cause of understaffing at California prison mental health facilities – understaffing that was tied to excessive and preventable prisoner deaths – was the inadequate wages offered under then-existent state pay schedules, which made it hard to attract qualified psychiatrists.

There was not a long line at the unemployment office in California for out-of-work psychiatrists, however, so the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) had to try to entice such gainfully employed professionals away from their comfortable city offices where clients were able to walk in, to stark prison environments where their patients were violent criminals. In December 2006 the district court ordered the state to boost the wages for prison psychiatrists, which jumped from a monthly base pay of $13,311 to $24,267 for chief psychiatrists – an 82% increase. State mental hospitals were not included in the order.

Consequently, the CDCR wound up offering prison psychiatrists higher wages than psychiatrists employed in state mental hospitals – causing the latter to jump ship from hospitals to prisons to partake of the increased salaries. Predictably, this had a devastating effect on staffing levels in state mental hospitals. In fact, at least two patient suicides were linked to the vastly increased patient-to-staff ratios at the hospitals; one of those deaths resulted in a lawsuit and a $975,000 settlement with the state.

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