Do the right thing, and you get fired; that is how CCS and other “health care” prison contractors operate. Gross neglect of inmates, lies to cover up said neglect, and retaliation against those who expose it. I SAW Correct Care Solutions operations while I was in: atrocious.
This article documents the trials and tribulations of one nurse who tried to do right, only to be harassed and fired.
Excerpts from the Article:
When Dennis Edwards was taken to the Orleans Parish jail’s medical clinic early on Dec. 15, nurse Natalie Henderson first noticed the jerky movements in his arms. His upper body moved so widely that someone had handcuffed his wrist to the stretcher, she said. Edwards was coming down from some kind of drugs, she thought, and was clearly “in distress.” He kept flailing around. He was “not coherent,” she said. Edwards’ heart rate was “knocking on 200,” twice the normal threshold, Henderson said, recalling his vitals from memory at a recent interview. His oxygen saturation was below normal, and his blood pressure “at stroke levels,” she said. She recognized a smell coming from his body – a foul mix of blood and feces – indicating he could have gastrointestinal bleeding, she said.
“I said, ‘He needs to go to the hospital. He is going to die,‘” Henderson recalled telling a supervisor at Correct Care Solutions, the company that provides inmate medical care for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. Edwards, 41, was not taken to a hospital. Instead, sheriff’s office officials said, he died on the floor of the Orleans Justice Center jail’s medical clinic after EMS personnel were unable to revive him. It was only his second night at the jail, records show.
Four months later, Henderson was fired April 25 by Correct Care Solutions, according to a lawsuit she filed May 1 against Sheriff Marlin Gusman and her former employer, claiming her firing was retaliatory and violated Louisiana’s whistleblower protection law. Her lawsuit claims she complained to jail staff about alleged “improper care” of Edwards and other inmates, “but her complaints were not answered.” The suit also claims Henderson “and other nurses were being physically and psychologically sexually assaulted on numerous occasions by inmates,” and that CCS supervisors and jail staff in some instances “ignored” the “assaults.”
Henderson’s whistleblower lawsuit is raising new questions about the sheriff’s office’s actions in running a jail where a number of inmates have died in recent years. Edwards was one of six people who died while in OPSO custody in 2017 alone, according to the agency. A federal judge has cited the deaths and other poor conditions at the jail in imposing tighter monitoring over Gusman and the jail, which remains under a federal consent decree.
A federal judge said in a court order about the resignation he was “dissatisfied with the pace of reform” at the jail.
Henderson said she raised numerous concerns to a supervisor at CCS before her termination, which she said she detailed in emails she shared with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. They included the decision not to order Edwards’ transport to a hospital before he died, and her allegations of being harassed at the jail.
“I was trying to help the inmates, and at the same time I’m being sexually harassed… And I’m the one who’s terminated,” Henderson said in an interview at her attorney Joseph Albe’s office in Slidell. She believes an opportunity was missed to get Edwards stabilized had he been taken to an emergency room.
Henderson, 33, grew up in New Orleans East and earned her licensed practical nurse certification through Delgado Community College. The job suits her personality, she said. “I love to help people,” Henderson said. She worked mostly at nursing homes before applying for a job at the jail with Correct Care Solutions in October. As a single mother raising a 10-year-old autistic son, she was attracted by the better pay and good benefits. Her lawsuit states she had an annual salary of $90,000.
Henderson said her duties included passing out medicine to inmates in their housing units. Most days, she said, one or more inmates would walk up to her as she stood at her medicine cart, exposing their penis or masturbating. “I had seen it so much,” she said. She learned to turn her head and continue to “keep passing medicine.” Deputies often tolerated the masturbation in the open housing units, she said. She recalled one deputy once putting a stop to the behavior, though, telling the men, “We’re not having that today.”
What bothered Henderson more and prompted her to alert at least one CCS supervisor and OPSO jail staff, she said, was that some of the inmates would touch her inappropriately. They also began passing around printed copies of a photograph of herself she had posted on Facebook, she said, and used the picture to taunt her. She said she never learned how the men obtained the photo, despite her inquiries to jail staff.
At least five different incarcerated men touched Henderson’s buttocks while she was passing out medicine, she said. The first time, on Nov. 15, OPSO investigators launched a probe and eventually rebooked two people on sexual battery and other charges, court records show. A warrant for their arrests says video surveillance footage supported Henderson’s account. Louis Handy, 28, pleaded guilty Jan. 30 to misdemeanor sexual battery and was sentenced to six months at the jail. The other man charged, Evie Jackson, 54, was deemed mentally incompetent in January and his charges remain unresolved.
The day after a Dec. 5 incident when her buttocks was touched by another inmate, Henderson said she sent a supervisor an email, which Henderson provided, writing that a deputy who witnessed the inappropriate touching had notified an OPSO supervisor. But Henderson said she is not aware anything was done in response to that, or another incident she alleged.
The coroner’s office ruled Edwards died of natural causes from hypertensive cardiovascular disease, an autopsy report shows. At death he had several drugs in his body, including naloxone, which is given to people to reverse an opioid overdose, as well as morphine and the opioids hydromorphone and norfentanyl, the report said.
Court records indicate Edwards was booked Dec. 13 on misdemeanor charges of theft, simple criminal damage to property and criminal trespassing – none a felony. He was apparently unable to pay the $450 a bail bonds service would require to post the $4,500 bond assigned to him by a judge just under 17 hours before Edwards’ death. The autopsy report said Edwards died at 2:52 a.m. Dec. 15. An email Henderson said she sent to her CCS supervisor 16 minutes later, at 3:08 a.m., listed her concerns with the handling of Edwards’ medical care.
He had been in the clinic for “about 1 hour” and appeared “very unstable,” Henderson wrote, according to a copy of that email she provided. An OPSO report on Edwards’ death corroborates Henderson’s account of the timing and who was present in the medical clinic when he died. After reading his vitals, she wrote, “I explain to the charge nurse that he need to send the patient out.” The nurse in charge, Henderson wrote, “ignored everything I was asking him to do.” Henderson also wrote in the email that when she saw Edwards “coding,” meaning he needed to be resuscitated, she alerted the same supervisor, who Henderson said responded, “He’s OK.”
That immediate supervisor did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.
“If my family member died like that I would have been upset,” said Henderson, explaining why she wrote to her CCS supervisors.
She had passed out medicine on March 18 when a large group of jailed men – she estimated about 20 – crowded around her, at least one holding a copy of her Facebook picture and some of them calling her names like “b—-” and “hoe,” she said. Handy, the man convicted of sexual battery for touching her buttocks, was among the inmates crowded around her, she alleged. One or more people “started throwing cups,” she said, as the on-duty deputy remained seated.
“She wasn’t saying anything. … She just let it go on,” Henderson said of the deputy.
When Henderson returned to work, she said, she was told she was not allowed on certain floors where she previously worked. A supervisor told her she was a “security threat” on those floors, she said. Henderson said it felt like CCS or the jail staff blamed her for being inappropriately touched.
CCS suspended Henderson April 15 for leaving her post the previous day, she said. Again, she said she did not receive documentation.
“If I complain I get harassed or reprimanded for speaking up,” she wrote in an email she said she sent to higher-ups in her company. “How do they expect me to function and work when they keep pulling me off of floors. Not explaining why I can’t go to a certain floor.”
The 2017 deaths include five people who were brought to a hospital from the Orleans Justice Center jail or the Temporary Detention Center, another OPSO jail facility. One of them, Jermaine Johnson, 23, died last May, less than two weeks after authorities say he hanged himself in his cell in the Orleans Justice Center – a case that prompted additional criticism of the jail and the sheriff’s operation of it. The sheriff’s office also faces a wrongful death lawsuit related to the February 2017 death of Colby Crawford, who had a history of documented mental health problems and overdosed on cocaine he injected inside the jail — an incident recorded on OPSO’s surveillance cameras.