Maurice Dutton understands the feeling of complete helplessness in the face of mental illness. His son Michael was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 14. Three years later, in 1980, he was involuntarily admitted to Austin State Hospital after local facilities proved inadequate to help him. For the rest of his son’s life, Maurice watched Michael’s painful journey through Texas’ mental health and prison systems.
Posts Tagged ‘ Lack of medical care ’
Texas is behind everybody in providing help to mentally ill people, and a recent study finds that we actually incarcerate more people with mental disorders than we treat.
In this story, we see an example of this broken system in the life and death of Michael Dutton.
“When he confessed to a parole violation in order to get himself back into the hospital — the only place he knew to get the help he needed — he was sent to prison instead, to serve his nine-year sentence. Eventually he quit taking his medications, began lashing out at guards and fellow inmates, and ended up spending long periods in solitary confinement.”
Hank died a terrible, unnecessary death in the Bowie County Jail, which is run by a private prison company with a bad reputation: Community Education Centers. I always suspected the family would have a good case if they decided to sue. Last week, I receieved a noted from Dr. Parks, Hank’s good friend, and then I saw the story in the Washington Times about the federal lawsuit.
His family members and a close friend contacted Texas Jail Project soon after his death in 2012 and gave us all the information as they agonized over his painful death. We encouraged them to write the following bio of his life (On the next page) Their bio is full of rich details and stories of a life well lived, of a man valued by his community, especially the little boys he took fishing. We hope the jail staff reads it and thinks of him every time somebody in their facility is in pain and calling out for help.
In this new story picked up by the New York Times, a Henderson county lawyer complains about a judge who has the nerve to speak out about jail operations. “He has absolutely no business trying to be a doctor from the bench,” says Robert Davis. Of course, Judge Tarrance has all the business in the world doing that, since people have reported ongoing neglect and mistreatment –numerous cases! Texas Jail Project heard from a woman last week who was forced to stay in a cell totally naked and denied her right to call a lawyer or bailbondsman. And like most of the inmates, she was not yet convicted, but was being held pretrial.
So the county is outraged by a judge who took the unusual steps of ordering medical care and going public? We say it’s about time.
Betty Madewell speaks fondly of her son, Bobby. 51-year-old Bobby Madewell, Jr died last March in the Gregg county jail. His family filed a lawsuit against the jail just a few weeks ago. The days are a little longer now for Betty Madewell of Longview, who says she is still mourning the loss of her son, Bobby.”It’s very hard, we miss him dearly. We miss him every day,” she says.
Do jailers in Ector County view the inmates as human beings? It wouldn’t seem so, by the way they treat them. Texas Jail Project wonders if they have any sense that they are responsible for the lives of people loved and cherished by family members. Like Guadulpe Dominguez Leyva, who died in Ector County Jail in 2011. The lawsuit has been filed and it reveals that her husband and family knew that the 45 year old woman needed help for her serious mental disorders and agonizing physical pain. Her daughter contacted the Ector County Detention Center some 20 times to complain about her mother’s health, and was ignored, like many other family members in Texas–in Brazoria and Gregg and Nueces and Montgomery counties. In that same year, 32-year-old Juan Carrasco suffered a seizure while being booked into the Ector County Detention Center hitting his head on the concrete floor, and they took him to the hospital but his family was not notified until almost 12 hours after he arrived at the hospital. Did officers ever think how important Carrasco was to his family? Carrasco died after being taken off life-support on his 33rd birthday.
Now another inmate has died. John Douglas Turner died in his cell this month. His friend said he has been begging for relief from an infected tooth for months. Just another complaining inmate, right? Complaining until he died at 36 years of age.
We must remember Craig Morris. He was the human being who was allowed to die on a cold concrete floor at the Dallas County Jail because jailers didn’t think he needed medical care. They said they saw him but thought the floor “must have felt good to him.” But others saw this: a man who was at various times “confused, shaking and seemingly in pain. He was wheezing, hacking, breathing with difficulty, coughing up yellow-green phlegm, soiling himself and slumped over the shower floor.” God help you if you need medical help in the Dallas County Jail because the jailers won’t.
A wife reports serious neglect: “My husband is in the Harris County jail right now and they lowered the dosage of a psych med for PTSD, if they give it to him at all. He also has a severe calcium deficiency and no one bothers to give him the calcium packets anymore after he was moved
How many county sheriff’s offices cut corners and put somebody in charge of inmates’ medical care who isn’t even close to being qualified? It takes a lawsuit, as usual, to expose the wrongdoers and hold those in charge accountable. The Wichita County jail has a record–of neglect and bad medical care. For example, look at the federal case filed after the tragic death of Jason Brown in 2004. His estate sued the previous Sheriff, Thomas Callahan, for failure to train and supervise the jail’s medical employees and for maintaining an unconstitutional policy of deliberate indifference to detainees’ serious medical needs. Are there others?
Maurice Chammah’s story tells how the family has gone to the courts for justice after the death of a greatly beloved 29-year-old son in Corpus Christi. This lawsuit will, we hope, shine a light on the horrible neglect that Greg Cheek suffered while in the Nueces County Jail. Despite training and safeguards, jailers there failed to see past mental illness and blue paint covering Greg, and they ignored his symptoms for days and days.
Click on “Continue Reading” to see the Texas Tribune story. Go to the Inmate Stories section of our website to see tributes to Greg that we posted when we found out about his death back in 2011: http://www.texasjailproject.org/category/inmate_stories/