Failure to Provide Medical Care in Mississippi Jails or Detention Facilities
Despite the fact that detainees and inmates in Mississippi jails or detention facilities have been denied the freedom and full rights of other citizens, they are nonetheless entitled to the basic constitutional rights of all Americans. One of these rights, is the right to reasonable and necessary medical care, provided by the detention facility (since the inmates and detainees cannot seek medical attention from any other source). In cases when a prisoner or detainee is denied necessary medical care, and sustains an injury as a result, then the facility could be liable for the injury.
The 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides prisoners the freedom from “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the denial of medical care certainly constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiff in such a case must be able to prove that jailors and guards acted with deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s rights, and that the detention facility willfully ignored a specific, serious medical condition. Common cases of violations of the civil rights of detainees and prisoners include:
- Failure to provide a specific treatment or a specific prescription medication for a medical condition which is known to the jail or detention facility employees;
- Failure to provide medical attention for an obvious adverse medical condition;
- Failure to provide medical treatment for a serious medical condition in a timely manner;
- Failure to bring in medical staff to address an obvious medical issue;
- Interfering with an inmate’s access to required medical care, and
- Basing medical decisions on non-medical factors.
In the state of Mississippi, even if the medical care provided by the correctional facility or detention facility fails to rise to the level of “deliberate indifference,” the prisoner who was denied medical attention may still have a cause of action in medical malpractice. Under a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff is not required to prove the defendant intentionally ignored medical issues, only that the medical care provided fell substantially below the recognized standard of acceptable care.
In 2014, the Clarion-Ledger reported that state corrections officers in the Walnut Grove prison disregarded the health and safety of young prisoners. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves reported on the facility which contracted their health care to Health Assurance, saying it “painted a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” Despite this, the Mississippi Department of Corrections gave the contract to provide health care at East Mississippi Correctional Facility to Health Assurance.
The conditions at the EMCF were described by the ACLU as “barbaric, with a callous denial of prisoners’ serious medical and mental health needs.” One of the plaintiffs’ experts in the lawsuit, Dr. Terry Kupers, found mental health care at the EMCF “grossly substandard.” One inmate actually lit a fire in his cell in order to receive medical attention for his high blood pressure; two days later, a nurse reported his vital signs were stable, only at that time the inmate had been dead for at least twelve hours.
In 2011, a correctional and nurse practitioner expert, evaluated the health care offered to inmates and detainees at several Mississippi facilities. Madeline LaMarre found there were very serious problems with the health care services inmates and detainees were receiving. LaMarre’s review concluded that nearly all of the prison’s health care systems were broken and/or dysfunctional, resulting in significant risk to patients. Just a few of the problems LaMarre found:
- The loss of vision by a 64-year old inmate after his diabetes went undiagnosed and untreated;
- A 25-year old inmate who had an abnormal ultrasound which showed a testicular mass, yet received no follow-up care and developed metastatic testicular cancer, and
- A 28-year old patient who lost the vision in his left eye completely, and lost significant vision in the right eye because he was not provided with his required glaucoma medication.
The contract at Walnut Grove called for one physician to spend a minimum of 40 hours a week at the facility, yet the physician spent only ten hours a week for a population of 1,300 inmates.
Carter v. Mississippi Department of Corrections
In the case of Stacie Carter v. Mississippi Department of Corrections, Ruby Carter filed suit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections for Stacie Carter’s death. While in prison, Carter was prescribed and provided Dilantin, a seizure disorder medication. According to another inmate, Carter had a seizure before supper, and the other inmate reported this to the guard on duty. By the time officers finally came with a cot, Carter had suffered seven seizures, and the other inmate estimated about thirty minutes had passed.
Carter was finally taken to the clinic, however there was not a medical person in the clinic at that time. After another forty-five minutes an ambulance arrived to take Carter to Rankin Medical Center, and by the time he arrived there, he had died. The Court determined Carter was not only denied adequate and minimal medical care, but the prison guards and officials acted with deliberate indifference—they failed to provide medical care until it was too late. Courts have consistently held that to place persons in prison or jail where they were unable to secure their own health care, then to fail to provide that care could result in the pain and suffering prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
Where to Turn for Legal Help
If you or a loved one in Horn Lake, Olive Branch, Southaven or Desoto County, has been denied medical treatment or care in a Desoto County jail or other Mississippi jail/detention facility, you deserve experienced legal representation from Stroud, Flechas & Dalton. You have specific protections under Mississippi laws, federal laws and the United States Constitution. When necessary medical care has been denied to you or a loved one, there is specific legal recourse available, and we can make sure your story is heard, and that you are compensated properly for your injury. Don’t suffer in silence–call Stroud, Flechas & Dalton today at (662) 536-5656, and get the relief and assistance you are entitled to.