US Capitol rioter with cancer ordered released from jail after surprise inspection found unsafe conditions
This article was sent to me by great Delaware attorney Steve Hampton (Grady and Hampton), one of few with the fortitude, brains, and courage required to sue Delaware prison officials and their “health care” providers, and he is excellent at holding them accountable and winning lawsuits. When folks may think that advocates like Steve or myself are exaggerating, realize that here we see a federal judge using words like “deplorable” and “beyond belief” to describe jail conditions!
Excerpts from the Article:
A federal judge has ordered a January 6 defendant to be released from the DC jail after an unannounced inspection by US Marshals last month showed mistreatment of detainees and increased the judge’s concern that a defendant with cancer would not be treated properly.
Judge Royce Lamberth said that the conditions in the jail were “deplorable” and “beyond belief,” and ordered that defendant Christopher Worrell be transferred immediately to a different jail, and released on home detention as soon as possible to start chemotherapy.
“This court has zero confidence that the DC jail” will provide the treatment correctly and not retaliate against Worrell, Lamberth said.
The Marshals Service is moving 400 prisoners out of a section of the DC Jail after discovering horrible conditions in the jail, like water being shutoff in many cells for several days, clogged toilets and an inmate who had been pepper sprayed and was unable to wash the spray off for days, leading to an infection.
According to a report from the Marshals Service — which Lamberth made public Wednesday — the agency also observed DC Department of Corrections staff “antagonizing detainees” and “directing detainees to not cooperate with” the Marshals during their inspection. “One DOC staffer was observed telling a detainee to ‘stop snitching,'” according to the report.
The report also said that “water to cells is routinely shut off for punitive reasons” with many cells being “shut off for days, inhibiting detainees from drinking water, washing hands, or flushing toilets.” The Marshals also found poor entrance screening procedures to the jail and improper food service, with meals “served cold and congealed.”
Worrell has been indicted on six federal charges. Prosecutors say he wore tactical gear and a radio earpiece, and marched with the Proud Boys extremist group to the Capitol. He then allegedly used pepper spray to assault police officers. He has pleaded not guilty.
Lamberth’s decision on Wednesday is the latest fallout after the Capitol riot cases have put increased attention on the conditions for inmates at the DC Jail, which has for years struggled with safety and cleanliness. Many detained Capitol riot defendants have been complaining about the conditions at the DC jail, and Lamberth referred the jail to the Department of Justice last month for potentially violating Worrell’s civil rights.
Lamberth also held both Warden Wanda Patten and Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth in civil contempt last month for failing to turn over Worrell’s medical records. Patten and Booth filed a motion Wednesday for reconsideration of Lamberth’s contempt order, arguing — among other things — that the medical requests were produced in an appropriate amount of time.
Worrell has since become a cause célèbre in right-wing circles who are claiming that the jail and the Justice Department are treating January 6 defendants unfairly. Worrell has faced numerous medical issues while at the jail, including a broken finger that might require surgery and an ongoing battle with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and his medical treatment has been central to his repeated attempts to be released from jail. In a hearing last month, attorneys for Worrell claimed that the DC jail dragged its feet in scheduling Worrell’s finger surgery and worsened his injury, and expressed concern that his medical needs as he begins chemotherapy will not be attended to. Both the jail and prosecutors disagree, claiming that the surgery is elective and that the jail is equipped to handle his treatment.
This is another excellent article too long for me to edit as I post it … with all my other work I don’t have the time. I did read it, and the horrors it reports in Texas also occur in many other state’s prisons! I have read before about some of these cases, and posted articles. I just don’t have time to cross reference it all.
The Whole Article:
Armando Carrillo had been waiting outside the Nueces County Jail for hours when he heard sirens approaching in the middle of the night on March 5, 2018. He had visited the jail earlier that day to see his youngest son, Danny, 27, who had been incarcerated for three weeks on a probation violation. Danny had sounded increasingly paranoid on the phone leading up to the visit and started crying and cowering when officers escorted him out of his cell. “You could tell he was losing his mind. I’ve never seen him like that,” Armando says. Pacing outside the jail later that night, Armando desperately called attorneys and bail bondsmen to help him get his son out. His stomach dropped when he saw an ambulance pull up to the box-like building lined with razor wire around 2 a.m. He thought of his son’s rambling last words hours before: “He was telling me, ‘I know I’m going to get killed.’”
Jail staff and people incarcerated with Danny said he seemed fine when he entered the lockup but eventually started spiraling—sobbing day and night, hallucinating, and babbling incoherently about threats against his family. Danny, who had been diagnosed with mental health and substance use disorders, had struggled in recent years—losing a sister and bouncing between lockup and halfway houses. His mother, who recently had brain surgery, had joined Armando to visit Danny that day but was detained by officers who uncovered an old theft charge when they screened her to enter. Guards said Danny became “belligerent” when she was taken away, then later swung at them when they stormed his cell to move him, striking one officer in the temple and another in the nose. Three guards then tackled Danny and pinned him to the floor, while a fourth stuck his knee into Danny’s back and a fifth shocked him with a stun gun. Nurses who arrived to check on him about 10 minutes later found him bloodied, without a pulse.
Hours later, officials released his mom. Danny, they said, was dead.
LIKE MANY LOCAL LOCKUPS IN TEXAS, THE NUECES COUNTY JAIL HAS CYCLED IN AND OUT OF COMPLIANCE WITH MINIMUM STATE STANDARDS FOR DECADES. THE JAIL HAS GRAPPLED WITH OVERCROWDING, DEFICIENT HEALTH CARE, AND VIOLENCE IN RECENT YEARS.
An autopsy ruled Danny Carrillo’s death a homicide, listing the cause as “sudden cardiac death during restraint procedures.” He is one of more than 1,100 people who have died in jail custody across Texas since 2010. Last year, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS), which regulates county jails, counted 124 deaths, the highest number since the agency started recording them in 2009. Most deaths are among pretrial detainees, people who were never convicted of their alleged crime. In Texas, sheriffs are subject to outside investigation when people die in their jails. That job mostly falls to the Texas Rangers, the detective arm of state police.
As part of a months-long investigation, the Texas Observer reviewed more than 400 Rangers investigations into jail deaths over the past decade. The records show that state police regularly document jail conditions that can lead to preventable deaths, such as jail staff ignoring people with deteriorating health, taking hours to respond to emergencies, violently restraining detainees in the middle of mental health crises, denying treatment for chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease, providing Tylenol for liver failure, and mocking people who are moaning in pain. These documents, together with jail inspection reports, state data, court filings, and medical records, show how Texas’ patchwork regulatory system repeatedly fails to ensure safe conditions behind bars. Records from TCJS show that more than three dozen jails, including the one in Nueces County, routinely fail to meet minimum standards in state inspections and in some cases have cycled out of compliance for decades—yet rarely face consequences.
The Observer identified dozens of cases in which the Rangers documented allegations of mistreatment including medical neglect, denial of medication, and abuse by jail staff. In at least 37 of the deaths reviewed by the Observer, the Rangers recorded evidence of jail staff actively dismissing signs of serious deterioration or cries for help. A man who later died of sepsis was accused of faking his pain and “just whining” by a jailer. In another instance, a nurse quipped that a man dying from a brain bleed was “just acting” and “should get an Oscar.”
The reports also show law enforcement taking people in medical distress—such as those who had been in a car accident, were tased by police, or were in the throes of a drug overdose—to jail instead of a hospital. For example, in roughly one-fourth of overdose deaths, the Rangers documented that medics cleared people for incarceration before they died. In at least 20 of the 173 deaths ruled to be from “natural causes,” the person had been hospitalized during incarceration, then sent back to jail—in some cases multiple times.
Of the 122 suicides, more than half involved people with documented histories of suicide risk, such as those who had previously attempted suicide or been placed on suicide watch at the jail. About 16 percent of those who died by suicide were on suicide watch and yet had not been checked by guards for more than 30 minutes—the minimum standard for suicidal or at-risk people detained in Texas jails. In 14 of the suicide investigations, the Rangers found evidence that jailers had lied about how frequently they conducted cell checks. The reports also show how existing regulations fail to save lives: In December 2019, a woman was booked into the Travis County Jail on an assault charge, after being hospitalized for cutting her own throat during a fight with her boyfriend. Jailers put her on suicide watch and looked in her cell every half-hour as required but didn’t realize she had opened the stitches in her neck until they saw blood on the wall.
While the Rangers investigations routinely uncover evidence of neglect and misconduct, they rarely result in consequences for jail staff, even in cases involving potential criminal activity. The Observer identified at least eight cases where the Rangers found evidence that jail staff had falsified logs of required cell checks or medical treatment records related to in-custody deaths—actions considered crimes under Texas law—yet local prosecutors declined to take them to a grand jury. Five cases reviewed by the Observer were ruled to be homicides, yet none resulted in charges. Four went to grand juries, which cleared the jailers involved. In the fifth, the Smith County district attorney declined to present the case of a man who died in April 2018 because a grand jury had already cleared the sheriff’s deputy who shot him during a traffic stop. The man required near-constant medical intervention for his gunshot wounds during his 10 months in jail, according to the Rangers investigation, and eventually refused medication, telling doctors, “I would rather die than live with this.”
Rangers documented their findings going to a grand jury in about a fourth of the more than 400 cases reviewed by the Observer. Charges were filed against jail staff in eight. The Rangers did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
With deaths in lockups on the rise across Texas and the rest of the country, reformers and jail regulators continue to urge state lawmakers to increase oversight and pass broader reforms to divert people from jail, particularly those with mental illness, who make up close to 40 percent of people behind bars. TCJS Executive Director Brandon Wood put the issue bluntly in a March meeting of the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health: “If we can’t have more of an impact and prevent our county jails from being the de facto mental institutions of our time, then I’m afraid that we’ll be seen as simply being like Nero, fiddling while Rome is burning.” The jail commission numbers undercount the lives lost: In a 2019 report, the agency said sheriff’s officials had skirted requirements to report and investigate deaths “on multiple occasions” by abruptly releasing people in medical crisis from custody just before they died. Wood didn’t respond to requests for an interview for this story.
This year, as COVID-19 spread rapidly in Texas lockups, exacerbating crises that predated the pandemic, Republican legislators passed a law backed by Governor Greg Abbott to limit jail releases and require cash bail for people accused of violent crimes. Opponents of the law fear it will lead to more pretrial detention and compound problems inside dangerous jails. Delays in court hearings during the pandemic have further crowded packed jails in places like Nueces County, which this spring began transferring people to jails in neighboring counties.
In 2018, when the Rangers arrived at the Nueces County Jail to investigate Danny Carrillo’s death, others incarcerated there were relieved. “I’m glad y’all showed up because everybody was talking like they’re just gonna slide it under the rug,” one man told them. “I know y’all are going to get justice. Y’all are Texas fucking Rangers.” Video interviews obtained by the Observer show how the Rangers’ investigation left out or downplayed their concerns. “If you get into it with a guard, they’re gonna come into the room and they’re going to fuck you up, as long as they’re not around the cameras,” one man told investigators, one of many statements that never made it into their report.
ARMANDO AND ALICIA CARRILLO SAY THEIR SON DANNY (PICTURED) LOVED TO COOK AND USED TO ORGANIZE COOKOUTS FOR RELATIVES. THEY SAY THE FAMILY DOESN’T GATHER LIKE THEY USED TO SINCE HIS DEATH AT THE NUECES COUNTY JAIL IN 2018.
Others detained near Danny told the Rangers that jailers berated him before storming his cell and that the guard assigned to the cellblock that morning, Jesus Galvan, had a reputation for being cruel and taunted Danny before he was killed, according to interviews obtained by the Observer. However, Galvan faced easy questioning from Ranger Stephen West. Toward the end of his interview, Galvan told West, “You know, this is my first incident like this.”
“It’s par for the course, buddy,” the Ranger replied. “It’s to be expected. You’re gonna face some tough situations sometimes.”
Months later, a Nueces County grand jury cleared everyone involved.
The Nueces County Jail grappled with overcrowding, deficient mental health care, and violence in the years before and after Danny Carrillo’s death, according to Rangers reports, state inspection documents, complaints to the jail commission, and criminal court records. According to lawsuit filings, people incarcerated at the jail called one cellblock “the dungeon” and named one particularly violent guard “the punisher.” At least 11 Nueces County jailers have been criminally charged in recent years, with allegations ranging from brutality to lying about assaults in incident reports. Two of the jailers who restrained Danny faced charges for lying about a use-of-force incident that injured a woman at the jail months later; those charges were later dismissed. Three guards were indicted in another death at the jail that December, one of the eight cases reviewed by the Observer that resulted in criminal charges. Court records show the officers—accused of assaulting the man and photographing him naked, then lying about it—pleaded guilty in exchange for probation and no jail time.
Current Nueces County officials declined interviews or didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment for this story, including Sheriff J.C. Hooper. Former Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin, who ran the jail for 12 years until November 2018, told the Observer he didn’t remember Danny’s death, one of three at the jail that year, saying, “That name doesn’t even ring a bell.” Last year, as chair of the Nueces County Republican Party, he pushed a conspiracy theory on Facebook suggesting George Floyd’s murder was a staged event. (Kaelin says he was just posting something that was sent to him by a retired Texas Ranger.) The former sheriff, who spent nearly three decades inside the Rangers’ parent agency, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), contends that deaths in custody are often unfairly blamed on law enforcement, saying those in jail, who tend to have higher rates of preexisting conditions, are a “volatile population when it comes to medical.”
“It’s OK to die anywhere in the United States, there would probably not be much of an investigation, unless you died in a jail,” Kaelin says. “If you die in a jail, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of scrutiny over that death, as if somebody did something, was negligent in the causing of that death.”
The Carrillo family sued the county and the jailers involved in Danny’s death, none of whom admitted guilt in a settlement agreement earlier this year. According to county records, it was the largest settlement following a death at the jail in at least a decade: $300,000, just over half of which went to the family after paying for attorneys fees. Months later, Armando still hasn’t touched the money. “It makes me feel like it’s blood money. I don’t know what to do with it,” he says. “If I could bring my son back, I’d give them back three times what they gave me.”
Sandra Bland cried throughout her time at the Waller County Jail, sometimes sobbing so hard that guards had a difficult time understanding her. She had just moved from Chicago for a job at Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black college and her alma mater. But on July 10, 2015, a Texas DPS trooper violently arrested her during a traffic stop. Guards later remembered that when Bland, 28, arrived at the jail, she insisted the charge against her, assaulting the trooper who pulled her over, was a lie, and “appeared to be in a state of disbelief about what was happening to her.”
Jail staff didn’t put Bland on suicide watch or any increased monitoring, though she told them she was depressed and had tried taking her own life the previous year. They did take note of the alleged assault on the officer, housing her in a cell alone “due to the aggressive offense she was arrested for.” Guards later said that Bland didn’t seem to be eating and made several frustrated phone calls in an attempt to make bail; she needed $515, but told jailers she was broke.
At 7:30 a.m. on July 13, 2015, jail staff rejected Bland’s request to make more calls, a Rangers report indicates. Less than two hours later, a guard found Bland hanging in her cell. The Rangers who investigated her death found two books in her bunk: 101 Ways to Find God’s Purpose in Your Life, which was closed, and a Bible that had been opened to Psalms 119. Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Bland’s treatment at the hands of Texas law enforcement became a national scandal that increased attention on police violence, racial profiling, and negligent jails. Black people, who are overrepresented in lockups across the country, comprise 13 percent of Texas’ population but 28 percent of deaths in county jails over the past decade. In 2016, Bland’s family settled a wrongful-death lawsuit against state and local officials for $1.9 million and an agreement by the Waller County Jail to increase guard training and adopt an automatic electronic cell check system. The next year, the Texas Legislature passed a reform bill bearing Bland’s name that required law enforcement to collect more data on traffic stops and “make a good faith effort” to divert people with mental illness or substance use problems into treatment instead of jail. The Sandra Bland Act also strengthened mental health screening and training requirements for jailers and mandated independent investigations of county jail deaths, instead of allowing sheriff’s offices to investigate themselves.
“Connecting some actual reforms to this, it mattered to me. God it mattered to me,” says Cannon Lambert, the attorney who represented Bland’s family. “I did not want a number. It had to be something different.”
Texas lawmakers first established safety standards for jails in the late 1950s but provided no way to enforce them. The state health department was tasked with inspections but wasn’t funded to do so until more than a decade later, at which point it found nearly every Texas jail in violation. Still, little could be done.
At the end of the civil rights movement, people incarcerated nationwide began to fight back in court. From New York to Texas, they organized class action lawsuits to demand better, safer conditions. In 1972, a prisoner named David Ruiz filed a lawsuit alleging brutal treatment inside the Texas Department of Corrections, which ultimately led to federal court monitoring of the state prison system for decades. The same year, Lawrence Alberti, incarcerated in Harris County Jail, filed a lawsuit alleging that severe overcrowding had created a violent atmosphere and squalid conditions, which also led to long-term federal court monitoring of Harris County’s jail and criminal legal system. The lawmaker who authored legislation to regulate jails later described ones he visited in 1973 as “out of the dark ages,” according to an article in the Texas Bar Journal: “A bucket and a padlock were all the sanitation and security some of them provided.”
The mounting lawsuits against sheriffs and counties were a piecemeal, expensive way of bringing individual lockups in line. So in 1975, the Legislature passed a bill to create the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, described by a lawmaker involved as “a shotgun wedding between the Sheriffs’ Association and the ACLU with the State Bar of Texas as ‘matchmaker.’” By then, 40 percent of sheriffs or commissioners courts in Texas were tied up in lawsuits.
The number of people held in Texas jails has exploded by more than 500 percent since the 1970s—today, about 1 million people churn through the lockups each year. But TCJS has changed little in that time, perennially hampered by a shoestring budget and short-staffing. The commission’s $1.4 million budget has supported only three or four inspectors in recent years, the same number as decades before. In the 58-county inspection region that includes Nueces County, one person inspects 93 jails that detain more than 16,000 people.
Attorneys, advocates for jail reforms, and even the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the state’s watchdog agency, say that scant resources and limited enforcement power perpetuate a cycle of noncompliance. TCJS not only allows jails to resolve violations slowly, it also fails to hold repeat violators accountable, the Sunset Commission warned lawmakers this year. About 100 counties received at least one notice of noncompliance from TCJS from 2017 to 2019; of those jails, nearly half received two or more. The Harris County Jail, the largest in Texas, saw six noncompliance notices during that time; four of them cited staff for failing to properly monitor high-risk detainees.
The Nueces County Jail, where Danny Carrillo was killed, highlights larger regulatory failures that allow jails to remain dangerous. Inspection records show that TCJS found the jail in violation every year since it began inspections in the late 1970s until 1991, routinely citing the sheriff’s office for understaffing and for failing to adequately screen and classify inmates. Inspection records detail similar problems for the next 30 years as the jail cycled in and out of compliance: unsanitary conditions like mold on the walls and ceilings, broken toilets and showers, and water dripping into cells. The jail has been flagged for overcrowding numerous times, including as recently as this year, sometimes keeping people in temporary holding cells for several days beyond the 48-hour limit, and stuffing detox cells well beyond capacity.
In February 2010, guards left a man who’d already attempted suicide once inside the jail unmonitored in his cell for almost half an hour, during which time he hanged himself. The man had recently been taken off suicide watch, where he was checked on every 15 minutes, and was left without increased monitoring even after he’d expressed suicidal thoughts to a guard, according to the Rangers investigation. TCJS inspections following the death cited the jail for deficiencies regarding mental health and suicide screening, as well as failing to appropriately monitor potentially suicidal people. The jail passed a follow-up inspection in March, was cited again in April for failing to monitor suicidal and other at-risk inmates, then passed again in July.
Later that year, in October, Gregory Cheek entered the Nueces County Jail after suffering a psychotic episode that resulted in an arrest for criminal trespassing. His mother, Katie Cheek, says Gregory had stopped taking his medications for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was wandering the streets homeless. Katie was relieved after a judge ruled Gregory incompetent to stand trial and ordered him into treatment at a state psychiatric hospital. Katie figured it was better for him to wait for a hospital bed while in jail than on the street. “At least he’ll be safe,” she recalls thinking. “We actually had put our faith in them being his ‘protector.’”
Gregory spent three and a half months in jail but never made it to the state hospital. People incarcerated nearby described him wasting away mentally and physically. They told the Rangers that guards took away Gregory’s clothes, bedding, and mattress after he tore them up and ate them, leaving him naked as the temperature outside dropped below freezing. Jailers interviewed by the Rangers described him as “an extremely disruptive prisoner who had mental health issues.” His legs began to swell and “seep,” but he wasn’t given adequate medical treatment, according to a lawsuit that was filed by his parents and later settled with the county. A jail nurse told the Rangers he discovered Gregory unresponsive with a forehead temperature of 74 degrees on February 6, 2011. He died at a hospital in the early morning on February 7 of a bacterial infection. TCJS noted no deficiencies at the jail that year.
Incarcerated people and their loved ones file thousands of complaints with TCJS alleging dangerous conditions inside Texas lockups every year, but the complaints rarely lead anywhere. Records obtained by the Observer show that the agency often closes cases by saying that medical complaints and criminal allegations, such as physical abuse by guards, fall outside its purview. The agency forwards all complaints to local jail administrators, whose responses range from blanket denials to defensiveness. Occasionally, TCJS forwards complaints to law enforcement agencies, including the Texas Rangers, but it’s unclear if they take action on them.
Nearly half of the Rangers’ 622 investigations in the past decade were opened after January 1, 2018, when the Sandra Bland Act’s requirement for outside investigations went into effect. But according to the Rangers, they were not given additional funding or resources to handle the workload. The investigations reviewed by the Observer range from more than 100 pages to just two. Reports about deaths in the Tarrant County Jail—which have spiked in recent years, with three in the same week in June 2020, three in September 2020, five in December 2020, and three in February 2021—averaged about four pages, even as they document cases where people died after being pepper-sprayed, tackled, and strapped into restraint chairs by guards.
In some cases reviewed by the Observer, Rangers failed to document even basic information, such as a cause of death. Sometimes, they didn’t talk to witnesses or appeared to simply write up internal findings from the sheriff’s office without further investigation. A recent New York Times story on Rangers investigations into in-custody deaths found numerous flaws, shortcuts, and missteps that illustrate the same pro-police bias that such investigations are commissioned to absolve.
The Observer identified nearly 20 cases where the Rangers found evidence that jail staff had falsified records but weren’t charged. That includes the Rangers investigation into Bland’s death, which showed that guards documented checking on her every hour as required by Texas law, despite surveillance video proving they left her unchecked for nearly two hours before she was found—a potential felony for tampering with government records, the most common criminal charge in the Observer’s review. A grand jury declined to indict any jailers involved in Bland’s death. The trooper who arrested her was fired and indicted for perjury, but the charge was later dropped.
Though Bland’s death prompted more Rangers investigations, Lambert, the attorney for her family, says it also underscored their limitations. “Let’s just be honest: They’re not independent,” he says. “An independent review would mean that someone is brought in with a fresh set of eyes with no agenda and is going to follow information wherever it goes. But there is a real brethren in law enforcement. … It blocks their ability to get to the truth in some ways.”
J.Joseph Mongaras was already on his way to the Kaufman County Jail, southeast of Dallas, when he got the call. It was May 19, 2019, and Mongaras, a criminal defense attorney, was driving to visit Elmer Dale Barrett, a 70-year-old Air Force veteran who was in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service on drug charges and being held in the county jail. Barrett didn’t flag significant health concerns in screening forms when he was booked that February, noting instead that he worried about who would care for his 18-year-old dog. But Mongaras, his court-appointed attorney, knew Barrett’s health had deteriorated during his three months in jail and hoped his presence might convince jail staff to give Barrett medical attention. If they didn’t, Mongaras planned to push for a new hearing to get Barrett released.
But Mongaras never saw him again. When he answered the phone, he learned that Barrett had died early that morning.
Starting in March, Barrett had filed at least four written requests for medical attention. His handwriting grew more cramped as time wore on, and his requests were denied. On May 2, he complained of dizziness, but jail medical staff believed this was “an act” to go to the hospital, the Rangers investigation shows. On May 5, he said he had been having slight strokes and couldn’t feel the left side of his body; “I need to see somebody ASAP please,” he wrote. On May 7, he said he’d had a stroke or heart attack; on May 16, he said he had a stroke and needed to go to the hospital, telling staff he was “going to die in here.”
Barrett died on May 19, 2019, of complications from a heart attack that “may have happened approximately three to seven days prior to his death,” according to the Rangers investigation. Several days later, Mongaras received a letter Barrett had sent from jail. “I need a PR bond or something so I can stay at home so I can take better care of myself, it’s obvious they can’t do that here,” he wrote, asking about a lawsuit against the jail. “They really didn’t care if I died here on the floor.”
After Barrett’s death, TCJS found the jail out of compliance for what essentially amounted to a paperwork error: Medical tests ordered by the physician on May 7 were not sent to the U.S. Marshals for approval until more than a week later. In July, TCJS deemed that staff had been trained and the issue resolved.
Barrett’s death, like more than half of all deaths in Texas county jails in the past decade, was blamed on “natural causes”—a term that includes anything from heart attacks to late-stage cancer to COVID-19 to complications from withdrawal. More than 70 percent of those “natural” deaths were people younger than 60, according to data from the nonprofit Texas Justice Initiative. About 10 percent were people under 30 years old. The denial of medical care in correctional facilities is considered a form of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Yet the Rangers investigations reviewed by the Observer documented dozens of seemingly preventable “natural” deaths like Barrett’s and Gregory Cheek’s, which appear to have been caused or exacerbated by conditions in lockup and denial of medical care. In both cases, the Rangers investigation was brought to a grand jury, which cleared staff of any criminal wrongdoing.
Krishnaveni Gundu, co-founder and executive director of the Texas Jail Project, spent months after Barrett’s death collecting information, hoping his family might file a lawsuit. She worked with Barrett’s close friend Lauren Halbert, who received phone calls and letters from Barrett in jail. A suit was never filed; the two-year statute of limitations passed in May.
Gundu still has trouble talking about Barrett’s death. It sticks with her even amid the countless stories of trauma and neglect she hears from other loved ones of incarcerated people. “I think it really gets me because it was so clear where the liability was. It was so clear who dropped the ball,” she says. She worries about Halbert, who was recently incarcerated in the Smith County Jail for a substance use charge and struggled to get help for her own medical issues. Halbert cried as she spoke on the phone in the jail about the guilt she feels that she couldn’t do more to help her friend. “It shocked me pretty bad losing him,” she said. “It’s kind of one of the reasons, I think, why I’m here. … And now I know exactly what he went through.”
MICHAEL HENNING PLAYS A SONG HE WROTE ABOUT HIS FRIEND ELMER DALE BARRETT AFTER HIS DEATH IN JAIL CUSTODY. THIS RECORDING WAS MADE BY KRISHNAVENI GUNDU, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TEXAS JAIL PROJECT.
On paper, Texas is one of the best states for jail regulation, says Michele Deitch, a University of Texas at Austin professor and an expert on prison and jail oversight, but that’s a low bar. Twenty-one states have no regulatory or oversight body for jails at all, according to a study she published last year. Some don’t even track deaths behind bars. But in Texas, regulations haven’t ensured safe conditions, in part because that was never really the mission, she says: “The motivation behind jail standards is ‘Keep us out of litigation,’ not ‘Help us get as good as we can be.’”
Deitch says debates over how much money jails need to improve conditions must be tied to a larger conversation about reducing mass incarceration. “While we’re waiting for facilities to shut down and all these changes to be made in society that will allow that to happen, you can’t ignore the needs of people who are locked up because they’re suffering,” she says. Currently, jail regulations do little to address broader issues with treatment or culture. “The most common sentiment we hear from people is how they’re not even looked at as human beings,” Gundu says. “Your safety doesn’t matter. You don’t matter. … As soon as you go in, you just don’t count.”
At least 10 people have died at the Nueces County Jail since Danny was killed. That includes one man confined to the same cellblock, who spoke with the Rangers hours after Danny died. He told them Danny was struggling with hallucinations and that he tried to comfort him by saying, “Pray, just pray that it’ll go away.” Guards found the man, 65, dead in his cell from heart failure nearly five months later. People incarcerated with him told the Rangers that he, too, had struggled to get medical treatment.
ARMANDO CARRILLO, DANNY’S FATHER, WAITED FOR HOURS OUTSIDE THE NUECES COUNTY COURTHOUSE THE NIGHT GUARDS KILLED HIS SON INSIDE THE JAIL NEXT DOOR. DANNY CARRILLO DIED IN CUSTODY, THE NUECES COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER’S OFFICE CALLED DANNY’S DEATH A HOMICIDE, LISTING THE CAUSE AS “SUDDEN CARDIAC DEATH DURING RESTRAINT PROCEDURES.”
A lawsuit filed in September against Nueces County and the jail’s contracted medical provider at the time, Wellpath, says that Anthony Thompson, 50, wasn’t given insulin during his 72 hours in jail in 2019, though he told jailers he was diabetic on at least three medical screening forms and also called his mother, whom he lived with, about his medication when he was booked. His brother, Joshua Wayne Smith, says Thompson always kept his diabetes under control, taking his insulin regularly. But after three days in jail for a DWI charge, Thompson died from diabetic ketoacidosis, according to an autopsy report.
Complaints of medical neglect in lockups often land at the feet of companies like Wellpath, the country’s largest for-profit medical provider for jails. Wellpath treated people at the Nueces County Jail from 2015 until late 2020. Lawsuits have accused Wellpath of deadly care in lockups across the country, and a recent CNN investigation found that it failed to train workers and adequately staff facilities. The Rangers investigation into Thompson’s death found that he was also denied medicine to help with alcohol detoxing because the jail didn’t have any; Wellpath employees who failed to share information from his medical screening forms with one another blamed a software error.
Last August, the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office told the Rangers they could close their investigation into Thompson’s death “due to his death being a result of natural causes.” Nueces County DA Mark Gonzalez didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
“The notion that a person could be arrested for a class A, class B misdemeanor and lose their life because someone chose not to follow basic processes in medical administration is unconscionable,” says Matt Manning, the attorney representing Thompson’s family, who was previously second in command at the Nueces DA’s office. “A DWI is not a death sentence. It is not a capital crime in the state of Texas.”
Smith describes his older brother as his “protector” growing up, stepping in whenever he saw him getting bullied at school. Thompson was a father of two and grandfather to four. Smith says his brother tried to stay positive despite tragedies in his life, like losing his wife at an early age. “He was the glass-half-full jokester.” While he mourns the loss of his brother, Smith is also furious about how he died. “It’s just pure neglect and lack of concern for another human,” he says. “If he were at my mother’s, he would still be alive, because he would have gotten his medicine. Now my mother lives alone.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The Whole Story:
This quote hits the nail on the head. Companies like the GEO Group are such a disaster that they have inspired the fast growing “No more private prisons” movement.
“This multi-billion-dollar corporation illegally exploited the people it detains to line its own pockets,” Ferguson said.
By the way, the Chairman of the GEO Group makes more than 5 million $$$$$$ a year! See https://www1.salary.com/George-C-Zoley-Salary-Bonus-Stock-Options-for-GEO-GROUP-INC.html
Excerpts from the Article:
A jury in Washington state awarded $17.3 million in back pay to immigrants who were denied the minimum wage while working at a detention center, according to Adam Berger, an attorney representing the detainees.
The immigrants who would be eligible for the award, which was announced Friday, worked at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma since 2014. The GEO Group, a Florida-based company that runs the for-profit facility, could appeal, meaning the money won’t be distributed until that’s resolved.
“It’s important on a number of grounds. It’s the first case in the country where a judge or jury has found that detained immigrants working at privately owned facilities are entitled to be paid minimum wage or a fair wage for their labor in keeping the facilities running,” said Berger, who works at the firm Schroeter Goldmark & Bender.
Earlier this week, the same jury found The GEO Group violated Washington state’s minimum wage of $13.69 per hour when it paid detainees only $1 per day for performing tasks within the detention facility, like preparing and serving food and running laundry services.
More than 10,000 detainees would be eligible for the award money. Immigrants are held at the facility while their immigration status is being determined, Berger said.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat who filed the lawsuit against The GEO Group in 2017, sharply criticized the company in a statement earlier this week.
“This multi-billion-dollar corporation illegally exploited the people it detains to line its own pockets,” Ferguson said.
If I had $5 for every article like this one which I have seen, I’d be wealthy. As I have said: “America has the best health care in the world … and the worst! The best can be found in hospitals across the nation, and the worst is in prisons and jails across the nation!” However, the whole country is deficient in MH care, and in prisons, there is no such thing. I have SEEN what we call mental health care in prison.
The local police department and the medical examiner called the prisoner’s death “natural causes”, because they do not want to acknowledge the rampant prison abuse; this is not unusual in such cases.
Excerpts from the Article:
A lawsuit filed by the family of a Washington woman who died while in jail in 2018 alleges inhumane confinement and deprivation of adequate medical care where she was held.
The death of Damaris Rodriguez, who was suffering from symptoms of psychosis, followed four days of “inexcusable neglect and appalling conditions at the South Correctional Entity Jail,” the lawsuit says.
On December 30, 2017, Rodriguez suffered from a mental health episode while at her home in the Washington city of SeaTac, a suburb of Seattle, according to the lawsuit. Rodriguez’s husband, Reynaldo, called 911 and requested medical assistance.
Damaris Rodriguez had previously suffered from bipolar disorder, and had recently developed a metabolic disorder that caused “psychosis symptoms,” the lawsuit says.
However, according to the family’s attorney, Nathan Bingham, law enforcement arrived before an ambulance and Rodriguez was arrested on suspicion of fourth degree assault against her husband. While officers were at the home responding to the call, her husband, however, insisted Rodriguez’s actions had not been intentional and that she was having a mental health crisis, repeatedly telling police that he did not want her to be arrested.
According to the lawsuit, Reynaldo “has trouble communicating about complex topics in English.” The King County Sheriff’s Office had determined the incoming call to be a domestic violence call and, according to Ryan Abbott with the King County Sheriff’s Office, with all domestic violence calls, Washington state law requires law enforcement to make an arrest if responding officers determine there is any kind of complaint of pain, or that an assault has occurred.
King County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Rodriguez and took her to the South Correctional Entity Jail (SCORE).
‘Starvation and sleep deprivation eventually took their toll’
Rodriguez spent four days alone in a cell, where video surveillance footage shows she was largely naked, surrounded by her own urine and vomit, and having what appear to be hallucinations, according to the lawsuit.
Attorney Nathan Bingham said though Washington court rules dictate that an arraignment take place before the end of the next business day, Rodriguez was never taken to court.
The lawsuit alleges that “starvation and sleep deprivation eventually took their toll,” and Rodriguez developed a metabolic condition called ketoacidosis, which leads to water intoxication. According to the complaint, corrections officers and medical staff knew of the danger of water intoxication, but did not conduct proper welfare checks, instead moving Rodriguez to a cell without a sink, where she later died on January 4, 2018.
The lawsuit alleges that Rodriguez died as a result of water intoxication. The King County Medical Examiner’s Officer determined her death to be a sudden death during excited delirium and has classified it as natural.
Attorney Nathan Bingham said there were numerous log entries on welfare checks that corrections officers signed off on which the lawsuit alleges never occurred, including an entry claiming that Rodriguez was offered and refused water almost an hour after she had stopped breathing.
The lawsuit claims that Rodriguez died, because the facility and their healthcare provider NaphCare, operate under “the perverse economic incentives of a for-profit jail. SCORE and NaphCare cut corners and make staffing policies and medical decisions based on their financial interests — not the health of their inmates.”
NaphCare, the company that helps correctional facilities like SCORE “manage their healthcare needs by offering an exceptional team of medical professionals,” responded with a statement saying, “Due to limited community resources, jails have become the largest providers of mental health care in the country. The correctional system is a difficult environment in which to treat or rehabilitate individuals living with serious mental illness. (…) Unfortunately, the jail population, particularly those with serious mental illness, are highly prone to sudden, unpreventable cardiac events. The King County Medical Examiner determined the cause of death in this instance to be sudden and natural. To date, there is no evidence in support of the statements regarding cause of death made by lawyers of the family.”
In a statement provided to KIRO, SCORE said that while in custody, Rodriguez “had been seen by medical and mental health personnel and was observed over the course of her stay by corrections staff and medical personnel. Upon finding her unresponsive, staff immediately initiated emergency procedures and began CPR. Unfortunately, the individual did not survive and was pronounced dead in the facility.”
According to the facility’s statement, an investigation into Rodriguez’s death was conducted by the Des Moines Police Department, which concluded that “no malicious criminal act” contributed to her death.
In their court filings, defendants have asked the court to dismiss the complaint, which they claim “provides a confusing, distracting, inflammatory, and unduly prejudicial backdrop.”
The victim, walking in circles in her cell:
The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons – lack Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at nearly five times the rate of whites, and Latinx people are 1.3 times as likely to be incarcerated than non-Latinx whites
Sure not news to me, but it may be news to some of you. Racism, subtle, subconscious, and overt, permeates our criminal justice system.
Excerpts from the Article:
When former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck in 2020, the world witnessed the most racist elements of the U.S. criminal legal system on broad display. The uprisings that followed Floyd’s death articulated a vision for transforming public safety practices and investments. Almost one year later, Chauvin was convicted for Floyd’s death, a rare outcome among law enforcement officers who kill unarmed citizens. The fight for racial justice within the criminal legal system continues, however. The data findings featured in this report epitomize the enormity of the task.
This report details our observations of staggering disparities among Black and Latinx people imprisoned in the United States given their overall representation in the general population. The latest available data regarding people sentenced to state prison reveal that Black Americans are imprisoned at a rate that is roughly five times the rate of white Americans. During the present era of criminal justice reform, not enough emphasis has been focused on ending racial and ethnic disparities systemwide.
Going to prison is a major life-altering event that creates obstacles to building stable lives in the community, such as gaining employment and finding stable and safe housing after release. Imprisonment also reduces lifetime earnings and negatively affects life outcomes among children of incarcerated parents.1) These are individual-level consequences of imprisonment but there are societal level consequences as well: high levels of imprisonment in communities cause high crime rates and neighborhood deterioration, thus fueling greater disparities.2) This cycle both individually and societally is felt disproportionately by people who are Black. It is clear that the outcome of mass incarceration today has not occurred by happenstance but has been designed through policies created by a dominant white culture that insists on suppression of others.
At the same time, states have begun to chip away at mass incarceration. Nine states have lowered their prison population by 30% or more in recent years: Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Alabama, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, and California.3) This decline has been accomplished through a mix of reforms to policy and practice that reduce prison admissions as well as lengths of stay in prison.
Still, America maintains its distinction as the world leader4) in its use of incarceration, including more than 1.2 million people held in state prisons around the country.5)
Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of its racist underpinnings. Immediate and focused attention on the causes and consequences of racial disparities is required in order to eliminate them. True progress towards a racially just system requires an understanding of the variation in racial and ethnic inequities in imprisonment across states and the policies and day-to-day practices that drive these inequities.6)
This report documents the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Latinx individuals, providing racial and ethnic composition as well as rates of disparity for each state.7) The Sentencing Project has produced state-level estimates twice before8) and once again finds staggering disproportionalities.
Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly 5 times the rate of white Americans.
Nationally, one in 81 Black adults per 100,000 in the U.S. is serving time in state prison. Wisconsin leads the nation in Black imprisonment rates; one of every 36 Black Wisconsinites is in prison.
In 12 states, more than half the prison population is Black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
Seven states maintain a Black/white disparity larger than 9 to 1: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.
Latinx individuals are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 1.3 times the incarceration rate of whites. Ethnic disparities are highest in Massachusetts, which reports an ethnic differential of 4.1:1.
Eliminate mandatory sentences for all crimes.
Mandatory minimum sentences, habitual offender laws, and mandatory transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal system give prosecutors too much authority while limiting the discretion of impartial judges. These policies contributed to a substantial increase in sentence length and time served in prison, disproportionately imposing unduly harsh sentences on Black and Latinx individuals.
Require prospective and retroactive racial impact statements for all criminal statutes.
The Sentencing Project urges states to adopt forecasting estimates that will calculate the impact of proposed crime legislation on different populations in order to minimize or eliminate the racially disparate impacts of certain laws and policies. Several states have passed “racial impact statement” laws. To undo the racial and ethnic disparity resulting from decades of tough-on-crime policies, however, states should also repeal existing racially biased laws and policies. The impact of racial impact laws will be modest at best if they remain only forward looking.
Decriminalize low-level drug offenses.
Discontinue arrest and prosecutions for low-level drug offenses which often lead to the accumulation of prior convictions which accumulate disproportionately in communities of color. These convictions generally drive further and deeper involvement in the criminal legal system.
Click here to read the full report.
My good friend and great attorney, Steve Hampton, called this article to my attention. Connections has been a disaster for Delaware. We must demand more transparency and accountability!
Excerpts from the Article:
Despite years of lawsuits and agreeing to pay more than $15 million to settle charges that it improperly billed federal programs and lacked proper recordkeeping for narcotics, Connections Community Support Programs was continuously shielded from scrutiny by the state of Delaware.
It remains a mystery why.
State officials continue to block public access to any records that may shed light on how it oversaw the largest provider of mental health and substance abuse services’ spending of tens of millions in tax dollars.
Records turned over in a Freedom of Information Act request seeking audits of Connections’ contracts with the Department of Health and Social Services offer little oversight of the nonprofit’s operations or compliance.
A shroud of secrecy was further cemented by state officials including contract language that explicitly blocked the public from accessing any records reviewing the nonprofit’s compliance with the contract. The state continues to keep taxpayers in the dark by dodging questions about how Delaware oversees contracts.
NONPROFIT REWARDS LEADERS: While feds say Connections was falsifying documents, nonprofit was rewarding top leaders
FORMER EMPLOYEE CONVICTED: Former Connections nurse convicted of falsifying records, lying to investigators about inmate death
State agencies contracting with Connections relied on the nonprofit self-reporting financial issues and non-compliance with state and federal regulations to ensure millions of state tax dollars were spent appropriately.
If any independent oversight was exercised, state officials have been reticent to say, avoiding specific questions about scrutiny of vendor contracts.
While auditing and oversight requirements for Connections as well as state authorities are outlined in several contracts the health department had with the nonprofit, the state did not provide any records of “independent peer reviews” – an oversight measure outlined in a Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health contract with Connections that expired in March this year.
DHSS spokeswoman Jill Fredel in an email in response to a list of detailed questions, said, “provider management is an important priority” for the department.
“Contract monitoring requirements may vary based upon the division procuring the service, type of service, funding source, or federal requirements,” she said in the emailed statement. “Across the department, we have recognized the need for strong contract monitoring and have been working to centralize business operations to maximize our resources, maintain consistency across our divisions, and ensure accountability.”
After this article was published Thursday to DelawareOnline.com, DHSS provided answers to some follow-up questions.
The department defended including provisions within Connections’ contracts to prevent the release of records to the public.
“These complaints remain confidential due to the compelling state interests in keeping informants and complainants protected, ensuring the integrity of its investigatory functions, and the provision of a robust and frank opportunity for complainants to reported alleged misconduct,” Fredel said, citing a provision within state public records’ access that allows department’s to withhold “investigatory files.”
When asked why officials couldn’t redact identifying information so the public could access contract compliance audits, Fredel said they are “abiding by what the courts have ruled.”
John Flaherty, a member of Delaware Coalition for Open Government, said the department could easily redact any names and identifying information. It’s the substance of the audit or complaint that the public is interested in, he said.
“I would say that the state is obstructing what should be the legal dissemination of public documents here by making up this mythical investigatory files,” he said. ‘If that’s the case, then everything they provide could be an investigatory file, it could be potential litigation and it goes on and on and on.”
Limited oversight was initially baked into the contract Connections had with the Department of Correction to provide mental health, substance abuse and physical health services to Delaware’s prisoners.
That practice hasn’t changed, even despite a 2019 Delaware Online/The News Journal investigation revealing the lack of oversight in relation to claims that Connections falsified medical records.
“To the extent permissible under 29 Del. C. 10001, et. Seq., the parties of this agreement shall preserve in strict confidence any information, reports or documents obtained, assembled or prepared in connection with the performance of this agreement,” a confidentiality clause baked into a contract awarded to Connections for adult withdrawal services in Kent and Sussex counties reads.
When Connections first took over healthcare in Delaware’s prisons in 2012, the contract signed with the Department of Correction restricted the state’s ability to watch what the nonprofit was doing, preventing the department from using data or information that Connections had already covered in its own reviews.
Quality assurance audits that DOC was required to do were abandoned shortly after the contract was signed, leaving the only scrutiny of Connections operations to be conducted by the nonprofit itself. These “peer review reports” conducted by Connections, however, are blocked from public scrutiny, according to DOC’s denial to release the records in April 2019.
At the time, DOC Healthcare Services Chief Marc Richman said he didn’t know why the state would limit its own auditing operations and acknowledged that future contracts could remove or alter those provisions.
2019 INVESTIGATION: Prison contractor falsified records to conceal inadequate addiction treatment, sources say
PRISON CONTRACT ENDS: Connections Community Support Programs to exit Delaware prisons amid controversies
Yet, other state departments followed suit, crafting contracts with Connections that included language to keep any records and reports related to evaluating the nonprofit’s performance confidential.
Delaware is not known for accountability and oversight, nor for transparency. Independent studies have consistently ranked the state among the bottom nationwide for government transparency and accountability.
The First State’s Freedom of Information Act has several carveouts that government entities use to block access to public records, including any documents part of an “open investigation” or pending or potential litigation, police personnel records and arrest reports. FOIA also allows agencies to charge requesters exorbitant fees for reviewing records to ensure they are responsive to the request.
These FOIA exemptions give government agencies an “out” to deny a request, but it is not a requirement. The language in the Connections’ contracts makes it a requirement to not release the information.
The health department initially demanded a nearly $2,000 payment to search for all financial audits and program reviews of Connections’ contracts. Its FOIA coordinator ignored requests to have a conversation about the records to help par down the request, ultimately leading to the news outlet appealing the decision to the state Attorney General, who ruled in the state department’s favor.
It took several months of back-and-forth with state health officials and FOIA coordinators to gain access to any responsive records, and questions regarding how those records show the state’s oversight of Connections still linger.
State departments have broad and varying interpretations of what records are publicly accessible, said Flaherty, the open government advocate. For example, a records request Flaherty sent to seven different agencies yielded seven different responses, he said.
John Flaherty, a board member for the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, weighs in on the state’s oversight of Connections Community Support Programs contracts. “Each agency interprets the law as they see fit, and in most cases they err on the side of secrecy because they don’t want embarrassing admissions to become public,” Flaherty said of Delaware’s approach to transparency and public records release. “Just because it embarrasses state officials, doesn’t mean they can hide from public disclosure.”
The only state oversight gleaned from the provided documents is from a late-2020 desk review conducted by the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health on a recovery services program for men.
At the time, the contract compliance officer reported Connections could not provide any documentation nor the clients or employees to confirm $71,301 in charges to the state in December 2019.
“Non-compliance was determined when no documentation was submitted that supported the invoiced amount,” wrote Teena Nelson, the officer who reviewed Connections’ operations, in a Nov. 23, 2020 letter to then-CEO Bill Northey. “Connections was unable to provide documentation that services were rendered to clients.”
Nelson recommended a unique corrective action plan that would address the billing discrepancies, according to the letter acquired through a FOIA request. Another desk review of the adult withdrawal management services in Kent and Sussex counties conducted by Nelson in February 2021 found no issues with those charges.
When asked why there were no desk reviews conducted prior to 2020, DHSS reiterated its previous response that it was working to improve oversight of its contracts. The department has never indicated desk reviews were performed prior to then.
Delaware lawmakers recognize the need to strengthen the state’s oversight of outside vendors’ stewardship of tax dollars but have made few moves to tackle the issue legislatively.
“We believe strongly in the need for the state of Delaware to constantly and vigorously re-examine whether tax dollars are being spent appropriately and efficiently, particularly when those resources are being directed to third-party vendors for services so many of our neighbors depend on,” state senators Sarah McBride and Kyle Evans Gay wrote in a joint, emailed statement in response to News Journal requests for interviews with the lawmakers.
They said they are “confident – based on our ongoing conversations – that the executive branch is engaging in a thoughtful and thorough review to determine where those oversight responsibilities fell short.”
Gov. John Carney’s office declined to comment for this story, redirecting reporters to the emailed statement from the health department, which answered hardly any of the News Journal’s questions.
It’s unclear what, if anything, Carney’s administration has done to strengthen oversight of third-party contracts.
Flaherty said recent moves in Delaware government suggest the state continues to shift further away from transparency.
He pointed to a public-private entity created to develop recommendations for increasing efficiency and effectiveness of state government, called the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review Board as well as the Delaware Prosperity Partnership as examples of quasigovernment entities that lack transparency.
“It seems like both of them were formed to shield the public from prying into the activities of how these groups work,” Flaherty said. “That is not a good sign. We need to have more disclosure, not less.”
“At a minimum, we expect organizations and their staff to comply with the requirements under the False Claims and Controlled Substances Acts,” U.S. Attorney David Weiss said.
Despite Connections Community Support Programs settling with the federal government in September over fraud and improper narcotics recordkeeping charges, Cathy McKay, its former CEO, continues to face charges of her own along with former CEO Bill Northey and Connections’ attorney Steven Davis.
And the contracts Connections had with the state spelled out the nonprofit’s obligations and responsibilities, including providing access to financial and patient records to state representatives to review contract compliance; submitting timely invoices to the state for reimbursement; and ensuring adequate and appropriate staffing, among others.
“The services performed by vendor under this agreement shall be subject to review for compliance with the terms of this agreement by Delaware’s designated representatives,” one Connections contract stated, adding: “It is understood that Delaware’s representatives’ review comments do not relieve vendor from the responsibility for the professional and technical accuracy of all work delivered under this agreement.”
But Connections didn’t provide internal oversight and quality assurance. Instead, the nonprofit relied on the state alerting them to any issues.
A patient care ombudsman appointed to review Connections operations during the bankruptcy proceeding discovered it “relied on the state to provide feedback as to whether the debtor was in compliance.” The ombudsman concluded the nonprofit’s reliance on the state to ensure compliance was a “significant and material deficiency in the overall operations” of Connections.
The contracts allowed Delaware to withhold funding if Connections failed in its obligations or neglected to provide required records.
An all too familiar story!
Excerpts from the Article:
A California prison guard killed himself after reporting corruption and harassment to authorities and cooperating with attorneys suing the state, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
Sgt. Kevin Steele, 56, wrote memos to top prison officials early this year in which he said fellow correctional officers in his California State Prison, Sacramento, investigations unit had faked documents and planted drugs and weapons on inmates.
Two lawyers told The Sacramento Bee that Steele had also been working with them on cases where he alleged evidence had been falsified or covered up.
He was found dead Aug. 20, in Miller County, Missouri, where he had gone after being barred from prison grounds during what prison officials say was a misconduct investigation. The county coroner ruled his death a suicide.
A second member of the same investigations unit who also complained of harassment and retaliation, 30-year-old Valentino Rodriguez, died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at his home in West Sacramento a year ago.
The entire unit — tasked with investigating crimes committed inside the prison — has been replaced, and 10 of its officers are facing discipline relating to Rodriguez’s death, corrections department spokeswoman Dana Simas told the newspaper.
Prison employees are facing investigations by both the FBI and the corrections department.
“We do take every allegation of misconduct by staff very seriously, and work hard to ensure there is accountability when allegations are sustained,” Simas said in an email to The Bee.
John Balazs, an attorney for a white supremacist prison gang member facing federal charges, said Steele was his confidential source for statements in court documents he filed alleging his client may be killed in the maximum security prison commonly called New Folsom.
The source he now identifies as Steele advised that “rogue” guards planted weapons and drugs in inmates’ cells to obtain more overtime, spread false rumors and relayed private information from inmates’ files to other inmates in violation of department policy, “and on at least two occasions have been directly involved in the killing of a CSP-Sacramento inmate,” Balazs said in his court filing.
He alleged that guards allowed inmates to conduct a “practice run” a week before two inmates killed a fellow prisoner who was handcuffed to a chair, citing a source he now says was Steele.
In a January memo to prison Warden Jeffrey Lynch obtained by The Bee, Steele said he alerted his supervisors to “inconsistencies” regarding that slaying, backed up with recorded interviews.
The newspaper earlier reported that prosecutors said the confidential source was interviewed by the FBI and did not have direct knowledge of wrongdoing but was relying on a report and other evidence including a video.
Steele alleged in a February memo to Corrections Secretary Kathleen Allison that prison officials had responded with “indifference” to his reports of wrongdoing and to the “victimization” of Rodriguez.
“I am NOT a disgruntled employee seeking vengeance,” Steele wrote to Allison. “Instead, I was a witness to an ISU (Investigative Services Unit) which became engulfed in corruption and watched as integrity was forced to cower in terror and fear of retaliation!”
Balazs said Steele also told him that allegations are false that his client, Aryan Brotherhood member Brant Daniel, planned to kill a correctional officer with a homemade knife that was found in his cell.
A second lawyer, Steve Glickman, told The Bee that Steele informed him that evidence had been suppressed in the death of a 29-year-old inmate found dead in his cell.
Corrections officials said he hanged himself alone in his cell in 2016, leaving behind a suicide note, and Glickman filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the inmate’s family.
But Steele said another inmate had confessed on video and in writing to the slaying, but that the confessions had disappeared. Glickman said Steele immediately informed the prison warden and had been set to testify publicly when he died.
“At every single juncture where I discovered something that resembled corruption, wrongdoing, exploitation, fraudulency and/or breeches of trust, I ALWAYS alerted supervisory staff and institutional leadership, as that is what I thought was the desire of both the administrative staff and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,” Steele said in his January memo to the prison’s warden. “However, it would appear that is NOT the desire of either entity.”
He said in the memo that Rodriguez told him some of their fellow officers were planting drugs and weapons on inmates late in the afternoons “in an effort to have to work overtime hours to finish the reports.”
A year ago, federal prosecutors charged two former correctional officers with faking reports in the death of a 65-year-old New Folsom inmate.
Ashley Marie Aurich pleaded guilty in January to lying in her account of how another correctional officer yanked the legs from under the handcuffed inmate in 2016. The two guards were escorting the prisoner, who struck his head on the concrete and died at a hospital two days later.
Both were dismissed from their jobs in 2018.
The second former officer, Arturo Pacheco, faces two federal charges of deprivation of rights under color of law and two counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation.
What they don’t tell you in these articles is that every year many jail suicides go unreported, because the prisons cover them up and even lie about cause of death – “natural causes”! I remind you that I have SEEN what goes on.
I also I can tell you that I have seen many promises like this go ignored! They never do it.: “We are even more grateful that the board has publicly announced its intention to dedicate the resources necessary to ensure that our jails live up to their obligation to safeguard those placed into the custody and care of the sheriff,” he said.
Also, being on “suicide watch” probably would not have saved him. Guards are supposed to check on each one every 15 or 20 minutes, but they just sleep through their 8 hour shift and awaken to check off the boxes saying they did – when they did NOT. Again, I have SEEN it.
Excerpts from the Article:
San Diego County officials agreed Wednesday to pay nearly $3 million to the family of Heron Moriarty, an East County man who killed himself in jail despite dozens of phone calls from his frantic wife warning sheriff’s deputies that he was suicidal.
The $2,950,000 settlement is the largest payment approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in a wrongful death case involving a jail suicide, a lawyer in the case said.
Attorney Christopher Morris, who represented the Moriarty family, said he was grateful that the county supervisors recognized the historical problem of people dying in the county jail system and agreed to resolve the case.
“We are even more grateful that the board has publicly announced its intention to dedicate the resources necessary to ensure that our jails live up to their obligation to safeguard those placed into the custody and care of the sheriff,” he said.
The multimillion-dollar award was approved during a closed-door meeting of the Board of Supervisors. The decision resolves a lawsuit that has languished in U.S. District Court in San Diego for more than four years.
The agreement pushes the total amount of money paid by taxpayers to resolve injury and wrongful-death lawsuits against the Sheriff’s Department past $20 million in recent years.
Moriarty, who was 43 when he died, was an electrical contractor when he suffered a psychotic break in 2016. He was hospitalized multiple times and diagnosed with psychosis, bipolar disorder and mania.
Deputies were summoned after Moriarty threw a table through a sliding-glass door to his brother’s home in Jamul. He ended up at the Vista jail, where his wife, Michelle, called at least 30 times over the next few days warning that her husband was suicidal.
“I would sit on the phone for half an hour,” she told The San Diego Union-Tribune in a previous interview. “But they’re like, ‘Don’t worry, we’re taking care of him.’ They said he’s in good hands.”
But Moriarty was able to wrap a T-shirt around his neck and stuff another shirt inside his mouth, court records showed. He suffocated and was found unresponsive in his cell on May 31, 2016.
Moriarty was not placed on suicide watch or treated for his mental illness, according to the civil lawsuit Morris filed.
Weeks before his arrest and incarceration, Moriarty had been a mentally fit business owner and devout family man.
When he died, he left his wife and three young children behind.
The case was upended a year ago when a Sheriff’s Department records clerk came forward to say she urged a jail sergeant to place Moriarty on suicide watch but her pleas were ignored.
The witness, records clerk Jeanette Werner, also said she was threatened with retaliation if she spoke about her experience. She had approached Morris in July 2020 about the sheriff’s handling of COVID-19 inside county jails, and the Moriarty case came up by happenstance.
“During Mr. Moriarty’s detainment, Mr. Moriarty could be heard howling throughout the department for at least two days,” Werner said in sworn testimony. “He sounded like a wounded animal crying for help.”
Court records also include screenshots of a text-message conversation between a nurse practitioner and a deputy who were part of the jail’s psychiatric team indicating that the sergeant had overruled medical staff’s recommendations.
“Moriarty just killed himself,” the deputy texted close to midnight on May 31. “I heard you had recommended safety cell but we’re [sic] overruled.”
“Yes,” the nurse responded. “I asked but sergeant said no.”
“This was Nishimoto all over again,” a text read, referring to the 2015 suicide death of Jason Nishimoto, whose family sued and was awarded a $595,000 settlement by the county in 2019.
“Yea, this one is gonna cost the county,” the deputy wrote.
The cost of legal complaints against Sheriff’s Department employees has been escalating since 2009. .
Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court upheld a $6.4 million award to David Collins, who suffered a brain bleed after falling twice inside the Vista jail. Collins had been arrested on suspicion of being under the influence but was actually suffering from a viral infection and a near-lethal sodium deficiency.
Last year, the Board of Supervisors agreed to pay $3.5 million to the family of Paul Silva, who also died in sheriff’s custody after being arrested. Silva’s mother had called 911 for help with a psychotic break, but he was booked into jail instead of being treated for mental illness.
And this past June, the county paid $1 million to the family of 26-year-old Ivan Ortiz, who suffocated himself with a plastic bag after being left unmonitored in a cell in the Central Jail’s psychiatric security unit.
The list is too long to post here, but READ IT and see that 37 of them involve the laws or regulations.
This case is an excellent discussion of issues to be considered in inmate abuse cases (8th Amendment – Cruel and Unusual Punishment). It was sent to me by my good friend and excellent lawyer, Steve Hampton.
If you know anyone pursuing such a claim, send them this case to read.
The interesting issue here is “deliberate indifference”, as opposed to so many cases where the plaintiff says the officials acted “intentionally”. The good thing here is that the Court ruled that there was deliberate indifference and so the case could proceed.
“Deliberate indifference” often is alleged regarding health issues repeatedly ignored by health care providers and prison staff.
Summary of the case:
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.
Kelly Jane RHODES, Plaintiff-Appellant,
State of MICHIGAN, et al., Defendants,
Paul McPherson; Richard Jones, Defendants-Appellees.
Argued: April 29, 2021
Decided and Filed: August 24, 2021
Background: State inmate filed § 1983 action against state, its department of corrections, and prison officials asserting violations of Eighth Amendment, substantive due process, and state law after she was injured when industrial laundry cart fell from truck from which it was being unloaded and struck her. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Terrence G. Berg, J., 2020 WL 978296, entered summary judgment in favor of officials directly involved in incident on basis of qualified immunity, and inmate appealed.
Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Moore, Circuit Judge, held that:
fact issues remained as to whether laundry truck driver was deliberately indifferent to substantial risk of serious harm to inmate;
fact issues remained as to whether corrections officer who operated laundry truck’s hydraulic lift gate was deliberately indifferent to substantial risk of serious harm to inmate;
fact that inmate volunteered to be laundry porter did not preclude her from raising Eighth Amendment claim;
it was clearly established at time of incident that Eighth Amendment’s conditions-of-confinement protections applied to prison work conditions; and
officials were not liable under state-created danger doctrine for violating inmate’s due process rights.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
You can read the case here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1g701-LZwLLcFibzAMS5jcf74dXHMIuU9/edit