The report chronicles a pattern of reckless and inept medical care at just about every level, including failing to provide adequate screening, acute care treatment and management of communicable disease, among other lapses. The report also found “numerous additional instances of deficient chronic care that put inmates’ health and lives at serious risk.” Among the more egregious findings:I've written before that the Dallas County jail can be bad for your health. At this point, it sounds like Dallas is probably ripe for a class action lawsuit over poor medical care. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has threatened legal action in seven weeks if problems aren't resolved.
At least 11 inmates died at the jail during a three-year period directly because of the poor medical care at the jail. One inmate died of pneumocystis pneumonia after he did not receive an antibiotic he was prescribed at the time of intake. Another inmate with a documented history of alcholism and seizures went without physician or nursing care. He became disoriented, suffered from elevated blood pressure and developed a fever. Later, after he was found lying in his own feces, it took staff five hours to transfer him to the hospital where he later died. Another inmate hung himself after which a physician’s assistant said he was unable to attend to him because no detention service officer was available to escort him to the cell. The report concluded that the “current suicide practices are grossly inadequate.”
The report — signed by Wan J. Kim, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division — also found that at the Dallas County Jail, inmates “routinely miss doses of life-sustaining medications,” which has resulted in several deaths. Even on the first day Department of Justice investigators toured the jail, a “significant portion” of the jail’s 7,000 inmates did not receive their medication. In addition, investigators observed medical staff administering incorrect doses of insulin to inmates, which it concluded could result in serious illness or death.
Investigators also cited the jail for failing to assess and treat inmates with mental health issues, resulting in a deterioration of certain symptoms, along with “unnecessary suffering.” In one case, even after numerous referrals for psychiatric care, an inmate languished without care for two months before staff attended to him — and then only after he had been lying in his own excrement for days. The inmate had not been receiving his anti-psychotic medication and was later hospitalized for dehydration and kidney failure.
The report also referred to the jail’s sanitation practices, which falls under Valdez’s responsibilities, as “grossly inadequate.” Investigators found that “parts of the jail are filthy, subjecting inmates to an increased risk of health problems.” Several toilets were leaking, floor and shower drains are in poor condition, while investigators spotted large concentrations of drain flies and fly larvae in the bathroom.”
In California, similar litigation caused federal courts to put the prison health system in receivership and appoint a health czar who reports to a federal judge, not state officials. If Dallas county commissioners and Sheriff Lupe Valdez are wise, they'll hustle to spend what's necessary to fix the problem BEFORE that happens to them.
UPDATE: See the Dallas News coverage.