Why am I not surprised to see this story?! Why? (1) Because I was in the prison during the time of the federal investigation mentioned here; I read every word of the “Consent Agreement” – 58 pages if I remember correctly – and saw the prison personnel violate its terms in serious ways daily at the same time that the Commissioner (“Do nothing Danberg”) and others were lying like hell in the press about all of the “progress” and “improvements” being made! (2) Since that time other activists and myself have gotten – still receive – a steady stream of emails and calls from inmates’ family members indicating that the system is WORSE!
This case absolutely is reflective of the quality of the organization’s health care in state correctional facilities.
I have edited out of my article quotes from the Governor and others about how “concerned” they are, and about all they are doing about the problem, because, as Ms. MacRae, Mr. Hampton, I, and many others know all too well, such comments are complete BS!
Surely there is a special place in Hell for the Governor, the Legislators, Delaware’s U S Attorney, and other officials who allow abominable treatment of inmates to continue. Give me a call and I shall tell you how I really feel! 🙂
As the first sentence of my – nearing completion – book says: “I used to be proud to be from the little, great state of Delaware, until I saw what goes on in Delaware D O C”.
Read how a six month sentence becomes a death sentence!
Equal to the atrocity of the “health care” itself is officials’ steadfast resistance to disclosure of the TRUTH!
See many related articles on this website, including one suggesting that the cause of death information, Autopsy Reports, Death Certificate, and police investigative files, be presumed to be public records unless, within 30 days of any inmate’s death, D O C or others can show good cause in court why they should not be!
Excerpts from the Article:
James Daniels collapsed in the chow hall at Sussex Community Corrections Center. He was unresponsive, foaming at the mouth and lying in a puddle of his own urine. Only “gurgling” sounds escaped his mouth. But no one at the Georgetown facility for probation violators, including the nurse who responded, called 911 when officers reported a man down. The nurse would later say she was trying to follow policy, which required permission for most 911 calls.
The 911 call wouldn’t be made until 18 minutes later, when Daniels no longer had a detectable pulse. Just over an hour later Daniels was pronounced dead. The delayed 911 call is just one example of inadequate health care Daniels received in his final moments on April 10, 2016, according to a Division of Professional Regulation report obtained by The News Journal.
The report states Daniels died after the “incompetent” and “egregious” actions of the nurse whose license is now on probation.
Lisa Roseanne Peace, then employed by Connections Community Support Programs, did not take Daniels’ blood pressure, check his blood oxygen levels, test his pain reactions or examine his pupils, the report states. The report states she also left the patient’s side twice. “The Board (of Nursing) found that Ms. Peace’s actions clearly failed to comply with the legal and acceptable standards of nursing and were incompetent on that morning,” Board President Pamela Zickafoose wrote in a February 2018 order to put Peace’s license on probation for a year. “Overall, the Board found Ms. Peace’s conduct particularly egregious when she failed to further assess the inmate by not taking his blood pressure and leaving him multiple times while he was in clear distress.”
Daniels was serving a six-month sentence for a probation violation. James Daniels, a 40-year-old inmate at Sussex Community Corrections Center, died after he became unresponsive in the facility.
Connections holds two contracts worth nearly $60 million to manage inmate health care: a behavioral health contract signed in 2012 and the primary medical care contract that began in 2014. The nonprofit agency offered no explanation for Daniels’ death in the nearly three years since he died, until contacted by The News Journal for this story.
When Daniels died, the Department of Correction did not release the cause or circumstances of his death other than to say no foul play was suspected. The state’s report does not specify the cause of his death. Unlike in many other states, cause of death information, autopsy reports, and police investigative files are not considered public records in Delaware. As a result, Delawareans often only learn what government agencies choose to tell them. Usually, the most the public learns about an inmate death is simply that they died.
In Daniels’ case, a complaint from Peace’s superior led to an investigation by the Board of Nursing, whose records are public. A report from a hearing officer, who acts as a quasi-judge in medical discipline cases, was quietly issued Nov. 3, 2017. An order to put Peace on probation for one year was issued on Feb. 9, 2018. A News Journal reporter stumbled upon them last week while pursuing another story.
The incident was captured on video that was submitted as evidence and played in a public administrative hearing in 2017. The News Journal requested a copy from the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation on Jan. 29 and was told the evidence file was in the possession of the Superior Court.
The News Journal requested the file from the court on Jan. 30. On Feb. 4, a court representative said the file would be delivered back to the Division of Professional Regulation. Despite the video and other evidence’s admittance into a public forum in 2017, a DPR spokesman said the agency would not allow a reporter to obtain the file before it undergoes “legal review.” A Freedom of Information Act request with DPR is pending.
Peace did not respond to a request for comment. But during her hearing, her attorney Gary Alderson argued that his client should not be blamed for not calling 911 because she was following Connections’ policy. At the time of Daniels’ death, Connections advised health care workers not to call 911 without the chief medical officer’s approval unless inmates experienced cardiac arrest or had hanged themselves, according to the hearing officer’s report. Peace testified that in the past, she had been reprimanded for calling 911 without authorization.
The hearing officer, Roger Akin, wrote in his report that the policy was problematic. He speculated that perhaps Connections wanted to limit the number of 911 calls to prevent civilians entering secure areas of state prisons, to reduce the cost of prison health care by limiting the use of outside emergency responders or to reduce the possibility of “false alarms.”
“Regardless of the rationale in limiting 911 calls, to the extent that the policy appeared to eliminate or override nursing judgment and dissuade timely emergency calls, it was not adopted with the primary or sole intention of ‘safeguarding’ inmate-patients,” Akin wrote. Sixteen days after Daniel’s death, Connections issued a memo to all of its correctional medical and behavioral staff telling them to immediately call 911 when presented with a person experiencing a “life threatening emergency condition,” the report states.
In a statement, Connections spokesman Adam Taylor said the circumstances surrounding Daniels’ death are “absolutely not” reflective of the quality of the organization’s health care in state correctional facilities.
Connections fired Peace on April 15, 2016, “as a direct result of the events in this case,” according to the hearing officer’s report. Peace claimed in her hearing testimony that she had issued a resignation letter five days earlier, on the day of Daniels’ death, because Connections had offered her another position. Besides pointing to the 911 call policy, Peace did not offer much of an explanation for her other alleged missteps, according to the report. “Based on this review of the evidence, it is clear to me that Ms. Peace’s critical ‘primary,’ or first, assessment was deficient even by her own standards,” Akin wrote.
A history of healtDaniels’ case is not the first time an inmate’s death has highlighted inadequate health care in Delaware correctional facilities, and it won’t be the last, said Dover attorney Stephen Hampton.“They’ve lost the fact that these are human beings,” said Hampton, who is representing a former inmate who is allegedly suffering from “irreversible neurological damage” as a result of inadequate care by Connections.
Stephen Hampton a lawyer and owner of Grady & Hampton, LLC, Attorneys at Law in Dover has filed suit on behalf of inmates who alleged they received inadequate healthcare in Delaware correctional facilities. “The DOC, the state, they’ve become callous to human suffering.”
In 2005, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice opened a formal inquiry into medical care and other systemic issues inside Delaware prisons following a six-month investigation by The News Journal that uncovered several failings by prison health care providers. Among the more egregious examples of how Delaware’s prison health care system failed was the case of Anthony Pierce, an inmate whose brain tumor grew to the size of a second head. His cellmates called him the “Brother with Two Heads.” Pierce was serving 14 months for a parole violation stemming from a burglary charge at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown when a small lump appeared on the back of his head and a prison doctor employed by a private medical contractor said the marble-sized lump was most likely a cyst or an ingrown hair. Seven months later, when the growth had become like a second head, Delaware’s contract prison medical director, Dr. Keith Ivens of Correctional Medical Services, stabbed the bulging tumor five times with an 18-gauge needle, withdrawing a bloody fluid. Rather than keeping the sample for analysis, Ivens emptied the syringe into a trash can, according to Michelle Thomas, a former prison counselor who was holding Pierce’s hand during the examination. Terminal cancer spread as prison neglected Delaware inmate’s pleas. The News Journal gained access to Pierce’s medical file through his family, and there was no record of a biopsy performed before cancer ate into the 21-year-old’s skull. Pierce died from the brain tumor in 2002.
That’s the same year that Bernard Coston was taken to prison on charges he stole a $50 jacket from an elderly woman. Diagnosed with AIDS before he went to prison, Coston spent his last four months in the infirmary of Wilmington’s Gander Hill prison (now Howard Young Correctional Institution). Coston’s death certificate stated that he died of AIDS, but the external examination from the autopsy painted a more gruesome picture for someone who’d been in an infirmary for months:“ The scalp is dirty.” “Examination of the skin on the back reveals a layer of dirt.” “Dirt is noted under the fingernails.” “Fecal material is smeared on the buttocks.” A forensic nurse who agreed to review Coston’s autopsy report for The News Journal said it was “obvious he got poor, poor, poor medical care.” The nurse also found it hard to believe Coston had been treated for four months in a prison infirmary: “If I did not know this individual was in the infirmary, I would wonder if he had been buried under dirt at some point in time.”
The U.S. Department of Justice found “substantial civil rights violations” inside Delaware’s prisons. Federal regulators identified a host of problems, including inadequate screening and health assessments, inadequate treatment of inmates with infectious diseases, inadequate treatment of inmates with serious mental illness and deficiencies in the state’s suicide-prevention measures. The state signed an 87-point agreement promising to correct the deficiencies and “meet generally accepted professional standards.”
After six years of working to improve inmate health, U.S. Department of Justice released the DOC from the agreement at the end of 2012.