Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rigor mortis finally proved to guards inmate wasn't "faking"

Perhaps readers recall the horrific case of Charles Billops, Jr. that Grits described recently; he was arrested at 17 in a Dallas suburb for stealing a Playstation and some DVDs, but died of complications from a treatable sinus infection in an adult Texas prison. His family recently settled with the prison system for $250,000, but I hadn't seen this bit of gruesome detail until reading a post at The Back Gate, a blog run by Texas prison guards:
It took a grotesque discovery – rigor mortis – to finally prove to Texas prison medical personnel that young inmate Charles Billops Jr. wasn't faking illness.

A prison guard picked up the ailing teenager's arm, and it remained frozen – in midair. The 17-year-old had died as he was being shuttled from cell to infirmary to psych unit, and his body had become rigid.

Yikes! The kid had to die to prove he wasn't faking it! I thought $250,000 sounded low when the settlement was first announced. I wonder how much a jury would have awarded the family after hearing that story?!

TDCJ officials have said Billops' condition was rare, but I don't see it: he had the sniffles, which turned into a sinus infection. He never saw a doctor and it turned into a more severe sinus infection, which ultimately turned into a brain abcess. I'm no doctor but that sounds like a pretty natural progression to me.

Poor kid - he was only 17 when he died, four months into a 2-year stint in a youthful offender program in Brazoria. I can't say it any better than the guard writing at The Back Gate: "No inmate in Texas prisons should have to pay such a terrible price as a result of falling ill behind bars." No, they shouldn't - but that's the price Charles Billops paid, nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

The lack of treatment for simple problems, like the lack so much as hot soap and water for an open cut, can complicate to blood poisoning, sepsis, gangrene, and death.

The fix? Simple: if somebody dies in your care, you get a long prison sentence. Fear of turnabout-is-fair-play will go a long way to motivating caretakers into caring.

John D. McLauchlan said...

What I wonder is if the state can't afford to provide adequate care in the first place, where's it gonna find the money to pay the judgments? Or are paying the occassional judgment cheaper than keeping folks from dying while incarcerated?

Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand. He was a juvenile. He did a rather juvenile act - he stole a Playstation. He was tried as an adult. He was convicted. He got two years for stealing a Playstation?

In prison he got a cold. Then a fever, Then a brain abcess. And died. All before he received any medical attention?

I agree with anonymous #1 the criminal in this story is not the one who died.

Anonymous said...

Just don't get sick because "nobody cares."