Archive for the ‘Criminal Defence Lawyers’ Category

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Dallas County Jails Continue To Provide Inept Medical Treatment & Provide a Dangerous Condition For Inmates

February 5, 2009

According to the US Department of Justice and The Dallas Morning News, a team of federal inspectors says Dallas County’s jail health system still can’t perform even the most basic tasks, such as giving medicine to prisoners when they arrive at the jail.

After four years of pouring millions of dollars into jail improvements, county officials say they expect the jail system, the nation’s seventh largest, to be a model for the rest of the country. However, in their latest report, federal inspectors wrote that they remain impressed by the county’s progress, but the infirmary care, tracking chronic illness and mental health programming remain as significant obstacles.

It was a lack of proper medical and mental health care that brought intense federal scrutiny upon the county in 2005. The inspection was conducted over several days in late September and early October, but the final report was only recently made public. Inspectors noted delays in issuing medications, a lack of medical evaluations, inconsistent care, lack of medical care for mental-health patients, a long backlog in sick-call requests, and sanitation and maintenance lapses.

The inspectors reserved their harshest language for the Lew Sterrett jail kitchen, where they found moldy ceilings that dripped water, live wires next to standing water and condensation so thick it was almost impossible to see across the room. Obviously, this combination of live electrical wires and a very wet floor poses a severe electrocution hazard to the inmates.

Conditions were so bad, the report said, it appeared that a jail quality-assurance team had never even been to the kitchen, which prepares food for up to 6,000 inmates a day. Parkland Memorial Hospital has provided jail health care since early 2006. Nonetheless, county commissioners have committed millions of dollars to the jail system for more staff and medical facilities to make up for inadequate spending in the past. Several large projects are nearing completion, such as new fire-safety systems and a $65 million jail tower. But the county so far has been unable to devise a system for quickly issuing needed medications to sick inmates.

That has resulted in another federal lawsuit against Dallas County. This week, the family of a former inmate with sickle-cell anemia filed suit, saying he went without vital medications for at least several days in 2007 while in the jail, resulting in a permanent brain injury. Lee Jefferson Jr. remains in a permanent vegetative state, according to the lawsuit, which accuses the county of violating his constitutional rights.

A monitoring team visits the jails every six months to evaluate the county’s progress as part of a 2007 agreement with the federal government. Earlier that year, the U.S. attorney general sued the county to force jail improvements. The latest report, the government’s third so far, said the county was “substantially compliant” with 12 court-ordered improvements, partially compliant in 22 areas and noncompliant in two areas (fire safety and infirmary care).

Inviting federal jail scrutiny can bring financial hardship on counties, which have to meet high standards of care, staffing and cleanliness – far more than what state regulations require. However, Dallas County has found itself in that situation because commissioners voted in 2002 to leave jail health to a contractor as a means of saving money. When problems surfaced, commissioners blamed the contractor.

But in two jail neglect lawsuits, it was the county, not the contractor, that had to answer the allegations. The county settled one case and lost the other, forcing two separate payouts totaling almost $2 million.

Noted Jail Deficiencies In Dallas County Jails:

 

  • Medications aren’t given until inmates are moved to permanent housing, a delay that averages up to four days.
  • Inmates with serious medical conditions aren’t getting medical evaluations upon arrival and don’t get adequate follow-up.
  • The jails lack an infirmary and skilled nursing care. An observation unit is understaffed, and nurses don’t know everyone who’s there and why.
  • The jails lack an efficient system for collecting and responding to sick-call requests.
  • A lack of privacy during medical screenings hampers information gathering when prisoners are booked.
  • There is only one doctor who sees HIV patients.
  • Inmates were hoarding food and supplies in their cells, posing a risk of food-borne illness.
  • The jails lack enough sanitation officers and supervision of housekeeping duties.
  • Maintenance and sanitation problems still exist, including broken intercoms, inadequate shower temperatures, sinks without hot water, clogged sinks and shower drains, and broken toilets.

Although these inmates in the Dallas County jail system have allegedly broken Texas laws, they should still be afforded adequate medical treatment and have their constitutional rights protected.

Attorney Scott Edgett is a civil trial attorney with the Humphreys & Peterson Law Firm in Dallas, Texas. Mr. Edgett is licensed to practice law in Texas and Florida. Over the last decade, Mr. Edgett has emphasized on providing superior client representation in a professional and ethical manner, while experiencing high job satisfaction and trying to make the world a safer place for all. Mr. Edgett has been representing families and consumers whose lives have been devastated by reckless drivers, dangerous products and other negligent tortfeasors. When a tragedy occurs because of the irresponsible behavior of a tortfeasor, an insurance company, or a corporation, Mr. Edgett and the firm of Humphreys & Peterson are advocates for the people and will help pursue justice for all. To speak directly to Attorney Scott Edgett, please feel free him at (866) 259-0661, via email at Scott@TexasJusticeForAll.com, or visit our website at www.TexasJusticeForAll.com.

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