State Of Minnesota Prisoner, Housed In A Private Prison, Died After Nurse Overruled Doctor’s Orders That He Be Transported To Hospital – Denied Emergency Medical Care

June 25, 2012

RUSH CITY, MINNESOTA – An inmate with a history of seizures was denied emergency care by a prison nurse who overrode a doctor’s orders for an ambulance, and within an hour the man suffered irreversible brain damage that led to his death, according to documents obtained by the Star Tribune.

Although prisoner Xavius Scullark-Johnson had suffered multiple seizures over a period of hours, a nurse at the state prison in Rush City cited “protocols” in turning away an ambulance team sent to take him to a nearby hospital, crew reports show.

Johnson’s 2010 death is expected to produce a federal lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC), with a filing likely early this week.

The agency said Friday that it would not allow Dr. David Paulson, its medical director, to be interviewed about the death, “due to potential litigation.” Officials said the department has investigated Johnson’s death, but would not provide details or describe the protocols cited by the nurse.

Yet events in the hours before Johnson was found “pulseless” in his cell raise questions about denial of care because of the rationed-care philosophy of the for-profit contractor Minnesota has hired to care for the state’s 9,400 prisoners. Corizon Inc., formerly known as Correctional Medical Services, has had a contract with the state since 1998, worth $28 million this year.

One of the contract’s major cost-saving provisions says that Corizon is not required to provide overnight medical staff in the state’s prisons, except Oak Park Heights and Faribault, where medically complicated, elderly and terminally ill prisoners are held.

No doctors, who are all Corizon employees, work in the state’s prisons after 4 p.m. or on weekends. Corrections nurses, who are state employees, work seven days a week, but their last shifts end at 10:30 p.m. The last time the Rush City prison had 24-hour medical coverage was in 2002.

Additionally, services such as ambulance runs are strictly monitored by Corizon and the department in an effort to cut costs, according to department medical staff. An average ambulance run costs about $3,000 plus mileage, the department says.

Corizon declined to comment for this story, or to allow a reporter to interview the Corizon physician who was on call the night of the incident.

‘Something is not right’

Johnson’s last hours are a series of scenes that show prison medical staff acting with indifference as well as compassion, corrections officers caught in the middle as communications break down, and guards left to evaluate a prisoner spiraling downward, according to DOC documents and ambulance reports.

The incident started on the evening of June 28, just as the health services unit was closing for the night.

Johnson, 27, a St. Paul native who suffered from schizophrenia and a seizure disorder, was found soaked in urine on the floor of his cell. He was coiled in a fetal position and in an altered state of consciousness that suggested he had suffered a seizure, according to notes taken by nurse Linda L. Andrews, who was on duty at that hour. He was somewhat combative when a nurse tried to take his vitals and wipe him with a cool washcloth, but his breathing was normal.

Andrews wrote that she covered the prisoner, then issued orders to a lieutenant to let Johnson sleep and to check on him during rounds. Andrews did not contact the system’s on-call doctor, according to her last chart, written at 10:55 p.m.

About four hours later, Dr. Sharyn Barney, a longtime employee of Corizon, picked up her telephone at home. A corrections officer told her that Johnson had had a seizure the previous evening that was evaluated by the health staff, but that now his cellmate was having “trouble waking” him, according to the doctor’s notes.

Barney, who works primarily out of the prison in Moose Lake, told the officer that Johnson was probably “exceptionally sleepy from the seizure the previous evening.”

She advised officers to monitor him carefully and alert the medical staff when they arrived for the morning shift.

Under the department’s contract with Corizon, there is just one on-call doctor to serve the entire prison system across Minnesota, and who is then left to assess a prisoner’s case without the benefit of a written file because health service units are shut down overnight.

Prison medical staff interviewed in recent weeks say the practice often leaves the doctor “flying blind” and leaves prison officers with no on-site medical staff to evaluate a patient’s distress.

An hour or two later, the officer called Barney back. “He was uncomfortable and felt something just was not right and we agreed to call for an ambulance,” the doctor wrote. It was a 911 call.

‘Pulseless’

A two-person ambulance team arrived at the Rush City prison at 5:39 a.m. While they evaluated Johnson, noting he was “slow to respond,” nurse Denise L. Garin arrived. She did not want Johnson transported, the ambulance crew wrote.

“They say the patient has had three seizures through the night,” a crew member wrote in her June 29, 2010, report. “They believe that he has a seizure [history] but do not know because health services is closed at night. They did not want patient transported.

“They have protocols to deal with the patient,” her notes continue, “and say this is because patient has recently gotten his Dilantin cut in half.”

Dilantin is a drug used to control seizures. An autopsy later showed that Johnson’s Dilantin was “below therapeutic level,” but there is no mention in Garin’s charting why she refused to let the ambulance crew take him to the hospital to have his Dilantin level checked immediately.

Garin’s own report makes no mention of protocols or drug dosages.

In fact, Garin wrote that Johnson was “alert, his vital signs were stable and he responded appropriately” — the opposite of what the crew observed.

Garin did not apprise the on-call doctor about her decision to cancel the ambulance order, according to her entries in Johnson’s medical file. Garin, who continues to work at the prison, could not be reached for comment.

The ambulance crew packed up and left. It was 6:07 a.m.

About 35 minutes later, an emergency alarm called staff to Johnson’s cell. Garin wrote that she found Johnson face-down in his bunk. She turned his head and noted a heartbeat. She asked an officer to stay with Johnson while she tried to reach a doctor. While waiting, she was called back to the cell. She pressed Johnson’s neck to find the cartoid artery and found that he was “pulseless.”

About 20 minutes later, a new ambulance crew arrived while prison staff administered chest compressions on Johnson. He could not be revived.

Johnson was transported to the Fairview Lakes Regional Hospital in Wyoming, Minn., and then later to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. He was pronounced dead at 7:37 a.m. on June 30. “Scans had shown herniated brain stem. Administration notified,” a nurse’s last entry stated.

At the time, Johnson was expected to be released from prison in less than three months.

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Man Exonerated Of Bogus Rape Charge After 5 Years In Prison – Victim Lied About Kidnapping, Rape, Received $1.5 Million In Civil Suit, And Probably Won’t be Prosecuted For Lying

May 24, 2012

LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA — A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.

Brian Banks, now 26, pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.

In a strange turn of events, the woman, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison.

During an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.

But she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.

During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told Banks, “`I will go through with helping you, but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back,’” according to Freddie Parish, a defense investigator who was at the meeting.

It was uncertain whether Gibson will have to return the money and unlikely she would be prosecuted for making the false accusation so long ago, when she was 15.

Gibson did not attend the hearing and she could not be reached for comment. Prosecutors and defense attorneys said they were unable to find her recently.

Banks, once a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, had attracted the interest of such college football powerhouses as the University of Southern California, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, according to the website Rivals.com, which tracks the recruiting of high school football and basketball players.

Banks said he had verbally agreed to attend USC on a scholarship when he was arrested.

He still hopes to play professional football and has been working out regularly. His attorney Justin Brooks appealed to NFL teams to give him a chance.

“He has the speed and the strength. He certainly has the heart,” Brooks said. “I hope he gets the attention of people in the sports world.”

Gil Brandt, an NFL draft consultant, said Banks would be eligible to sign with any team that might show interest. However, his years away from the game will be hard to overcome.

“History tells us guys who come back after one or two years away when they go into the service find it awfully hard,” Brandt said. “And this has been much longer a time.”

Brandt compared the challenge to someone who has been out of high school for years trying to get an A in their first class in college.

Banks said outside court that he had lost all hope of proving his innocence until Gibson contacted him.

“It’s been a struggle. But I’m unbroken and I’m still here today,” the tall, muscular Banks said, tears flowing down his face.

He recalled being shocked and speechless on the day Gibson reached out to him after he had been released from prison, having served five years and two months.

“I thought maybe it wasn’t real,” he said. “How could she be contacting me?”

He said he knew that if he became angry when he met with her it wouldn’t help, so he struggled to keep calm.

“I stopped what I was doing and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right,” he said.

In court, Deputy District Attorney Brentford Ferreira told Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim that prosecutors agreed the case should be thrown out. Kim dismissed it immediately.

Banks had tried to win release while he was in prison, but Brooks, a law professor and head of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego, said he could not have been exonerated without the woman coming forward and recanting her story.

Brooks said it was the first case he had ever taken in which the defendant had already served his time and had been free for a number of years.

Banks remained on probation, however, and was still wearing his electronic monitoring bracelet at the hearing. His lawyer said the first thing the two planned to do was report to probation officials and have it removed.

“The charges are dismissed now,” Brooks said. “It’s as if it didn’t happen. … It was the shortest, greatest proceeding I’ve ever been part of.”

Banks had been arrested after Gibson said he met her in a school hallway and urged her to come into an elevator with him. The two had been friends since middle school and were in the habit of making out in a school stairwell, according to court papers.

There were contradictions in Gibson’s story, as she told some people the rape happened in the elevator and others that it happened in the stairwell.

A kidnapping enhancement was added to the case because of the allegation Banks had taken her to the stairwell. That enhancement also was thrown out Thursday.

Outside court, Banks donned a sweat shirt that read “Innocent,” as several friends and family members wept. His parents were jubilant, and Banks thanked them for standing by him.

“I know the trauma, the stress that I’ve been through, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to have your child torn from you,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without my parents.”

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Maule Guards At Alabama Tutwiler Prison For Women Abused Female Inmates For Years – At Least 20 Guards Transferred Or Fired In Past 5 Years After Sex With Inmates

May 23, 2012

WETUMPKA, ALABAMA – Male guards at an Alabama women’s prison engaged in the widespread sexual abuse of female inmates for years, a nonprofit group alleged in a formal complaint filed with the Justice Department on Tuesday.

The Equal Justice Initiative asked the Justice Department to investigate alleged incidents occurring between 2009 and 2011 at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. The federal agency confirmed that it received the complaint though declined further comment.

“In interviews with more than 50 women incarcerated at Tutwiler, EJI uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence,” the Montgomery-based group said in a statement.

“This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct,” said Bryan Stevenson, the group’s executive director.

Stevenson also blamed the Alabama Department of Corrections for under-reporting the alleged attacks, which the group says include rapes, and for responding inadequately.

The group claims that more than “20 Tutwiler employees have been transferred or terminated in the past five years for having illegal sexual contact with prisoners.”

“It’s an ongoing thing, a daily thing,” said Stefanie Hibbett, 31, a former Tutwiler inmate. “You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done.”

Hibbett said she was the victim of sexual assault in November 2010. She said she told the prison’s warden about the assault, but no charges were ever filed against the prison guard she says attacked her. An Alabama judge dismissed a civil suit she filed in the case in August.

Several imprisoned women also allegedly became pregnant after being raped by guards, giving birth while in custody, the nonprofit group reported.

CNN cannot independently confirm that account. The Alabama attorney general’s office referred questions to the Alabama Department of Corrections, which did not immediately return a call for comment.

A 2007 Justice Department report found that Tutwiler maintained the highest rate of sexual assault among prisons for women and 11th overall of those evaluated across the United States.

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Riot At Privately Owned Adams County Mississippi Correctional Facilty Leaves One Guard Dead And Others Injured – Contract Facilty Houses Federal Prisoners Including Illegal Immigrants

May 21, 2012

NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI – A prison guard was killed and several employees injured Sunday in a riot at the Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Mississippi, officials said.

The 23-year-old guard appeared to suffer “blunt trauma to the head,” said Adams County Coroner James Lee.

The riot, which began about 2:40 p.m., was still going on Sunday night, the facility’s operator said in a statement. Local and state law enforcement officials as well as authorities from the Federal Bureau of Prisons were helping the facility quell the violence.

“The disturbance is contained within the secure perimeter of the facility, with no threat to public safety,” the statement said.

Five employees and one inmate were taken to a hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries, while additional staff members were being treated at the prison.

Johar Lashin told CNN that he’d heard a lot of noise and commotion when he talked around 6 p.m. with his brother Jawad, an inmate at the Natchez facility serving time for aiding and abetting illegal immigrants. His brother said he was not participating in the riot, despite pressure from other inmates to do so.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Rusty Boyd, a spokesman with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, said Sunday evening that 45 to 55 units from that state agency are helping corrections officers deal with the situation.

The facility is a 2,567-bed prison that houses adult men who are in the United States illegally and charged with crimes. It is owned by the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America.

Warden Vance Laughlin described the facility as quiet and with “few problems” in a March 2010 article in The Natchez Democrat, a few months after it opened to incarcerate illegal immigrants detained for mostly low-security crimes. At that point, it contained more than 2,000 inmates — more than two-thirds of whom were of Mexican descent, although scores of nationalities were then represented.

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Connecticut Prison Officals Want Inmates Who Masturbate To Be Labeled As Sex Offenders And Spend 5 More Years In Prison

April 28, 2012

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT – Connecticut prison officials are asking for a new law that would label inmates who commit lewd acts in their cells as sex offenders.

Department officials say it’s an ongoing problem at prisons such as the high security Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, where some inmates purposefully masturbate in front of staff, often female guards, counselors or other prison workers.

“If they were on the outside and they did something like this, they would be arrested and held accountable as a sex offender,” said Brian Garnett, a department spokesman. “And frankly, the same thing should hold true on the inside.”

Lisamarie Fontano, president of AFSCME Local 387, which represents prison workers, says about 500 such instances were written up at Northern last year. She said the problem involves a relatively small group of inmates, and has very little to do with sex.

“It’s about power,” she said. “If you can demoralize somebody, and some of the acts that women have described to me are absolutely horrific, then by all means the inmates feel more powerful over them.”

The legislation would make public indecency in a correctional institution a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a sentence that would be mandated to be tacked on to any current sentence. It also would designate the convict as a sex offender.

The bill would only apply to inmates who are deemed to be targeting staff with their activity, and would not be used when someone inadvertently walks in on an inmate in a private moment, Garnett said.

Garnett said it has proven difficult to charge inmates under current sexual assault statutes for behavior that happens in their cells.

Fontano said that internal discipline hasn’t deterred the behavior, but that inmates may stop if they know they will be labeled as a sex offender when they leave prison.

“This would be something that would be with them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “This isn’t something where you lose commissary privileges within the walls of the facility. Typically, a male prisoner does not want to be labeled as a sex offender.”

The bill has passed out of committee and is awaiting action by the full Legislature, which adjourns on May 9.

The move to pass legislation comes at the same time that the department is removing all pornography, material that contains “pictorial depictions of sexual activity or nudity,” from the prisons. Inmates were given a year to get rid of all their porn and the total ban takes effect in July.

The ban is intended to improve the work environment for prison staffers who might be inadvertently exposed to the material.

Garnett said the two issues are not related, but said both are expected to have a positive impact on the work environment in the prisons

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Prisoner Escaped From California State Prison At Sacramento

April 16, 2012

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Authorities are searching for an inmate who escaped from a Folsom prison last night and allegedly tried to steal a citizen’s vehicle.

Prisoner Marco Cabrera, convicted of assault with a firearm, turned up missing about 9 p.m. Sunday during a head count at the minimum support facility at California State Prison-Sacramento.

Folsom police said that even before they were informed of Cabrera’s escape, they got an emergency call at 9:19 p.m. Sunday reporting that someone, apparently Cabrera, had taken a vehicle in the 100 block of Esplanade Circle.

Esplanade Circle is in the Empire Ranch neighborhood not far from the prison. Dispatchers were told that the thief’s escape in the stolen vehicle was blocked by neighbors, causing the vehicle to crash into a water main.

The thief then got out of the vehicle and fled into a nearby wetlands area. A perimeter was established, but after two hours of combing the area, the search in the nature area was called off.

Folsom police said that 20 minutes after the initial report of the vehicle theft, they were told by prison officials of Cabrera’s escape from the minimum support facility, which is about three miles from Empire Ranch.

Police are convinced that Cabrera is the man who tried to take the vehicle.

Cabrera, 32, is described as Hispanic, 5 feet 9 inches tall, 200 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Police said he had a shaved head and was shirtless and wearing shorts when last seen.

The inmate was received from Tulare County last year to serve a 5-year sentence for assault with a firearm, transport/selling of marijuana, injury to a spouse, possession of an assault weapon, possession of a firearm by an ex-felon and possession of ammunition by an ex-felon.

CSP-Sacramento, sometimes called new Folsom Prison, houses about 2,800 imates.

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California Governor Jerry Brown Continues Dumping State Prisoners In County Jails, Where Many Are Released Before Serving All Of Their Sentences, As State Goes Broke Incarcerating Them

March 22, 2012

CALIFORNIA – Facing a budget crunch and pressure from the courts, California Gov. Jerry Brown is chipping away at the state’s tough-on-crime approach by shifting 33,000 felons out of the state’s prison system. Releasing prisoners early is rarely popular, so the governor came up with a new plan, coining it realignment.

“People who commit low-level offenses, or parole offenses, are now serving their time in the county jail instead of being sentenced to state prison,” explains California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matt Cate. The state has transferred nearly 22,500 prisoners, or 15 percent of the inmate population, to the counties since last October.

The problem is, many of California’s county jails are already filled to capacity, and are having to release inmates well before their sentences have been served.

In Los Angeles, Lindsay Lohan served only four hours of a month-long sentence. Lesser known offenders, like James Lucio and Angel Espinoza, were re-arrested for committing more crimes just days after their release in Gilroy.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich doesn’t want those extra prisoners, and doesn’t mince words.

“The governor is nuts,” Antonovich says. “He has committed a political malpractice that’s going to threaten the safety economically, and the safety of every individual in this state, through this reckless policy and it ought to be repealed.”

Realignment supporters say that new methods of monitoring and rehabilitation will actually reduce crime from its current historical low, but it’s a strategy never tried on this scale before, and the state needs to shed another 15,000 inmates between now and next summer.

In exchange for taking on all those extra prisoners, California’s 58 counties are getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the state to pay for housing and rehabilitation. But the ACLU just released a report saying too much of that money is going toward rebuilding or expanding jail capacity, rather than on alternatives to incarceration.

Other critics are quick to call the governor ‘soft on crime’ and statistics show that during Brown’s first stint as governor 30 years ago, California’s violent crime rate soared 36 percent.

The governor’s realignment plan is just now being implemented, but bottom line is that, whatever it’s called, thousands of prisoners will be walking the street in the biggest shakeup of California’s criminal justice system in decades.

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