Friday, September 14, 2007

Feds sue over Dallas jail healthcare: 'If people treated animals this way, they would be prosecuted'

Who couldn't see this coming a mile away? The feds have sued Dallas County over poor health conditions in the jail, reported AP yesterday:
Federal prosecutors allege in a lawsuit that inmates at the Dallas County Jail are at risk of harm because of unsafe jail conditions and a lack of proper health care.

The U.S. Attorney's Office asked the court to require Dallas County to take actions to correct deficiencies at the jail, among the largest complexes in the country. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the federal government contends Dallas County and Sheriff Lupe Valdez have known about problems at the jail for some time but have failed to address them adequately.

By failing to fix the inadequacies, the rights of the inmates were violated, the suit said.

"Through the acts and omissions...Defendants have exhibited deliberate indifference to the health and safety of Dallas County Jail inmates," the suit said. The federal government says court action is necessary to effect change. ...

Federal officials contend the jail hasn't provided adequate medical and mental health care to inmates and hasn't ensured a safe and sanitary environment for detainees, the lawsuit contends.

"This problem has been simmering and festering for at least 10 years," said David Finn, a Dallas attorney and former judge.

Earlier this year, county officials approved a nearly $1 million settlement with the families of three mentally ill inmates who were denied medication while in the jail. A little more than half of the award went to James Mims, a jail inmate whose psychiatric medications were withheld for two months in 2004. Mims nearly died when water was shut off in his cell for two weeks, said Finn, who represented the inmate.

The problems aren't just in dealing with mentally ill inmates, but also extend to people who require medication, such as diabetics, said Finn.

"We're talking about basic health care. If people treated animals this way, they would be ... prosecuted," he said.

A federal report sent to Dallas officials in December said the jail violated the constitutional rights of inmates by failing to provide adequate medical and mental health care.

A separate report from February 2005 found that lapses in medical care in the Dallas County jail system resulted in undetected illnesses, excess costs and risks to the public.

The only thing I find puzzling is why it took the feds this long to sue? A year and a half ago we already knew that "For every month spent in the Dallas County Jail, you're more likely to get a staph infection (~3.4% chance) than you are to hit 'snake eyes' when playing craps in a Vegas casino (~2.77%)." As I asked then, "Wanna roll the dice?"

Well, roll the dice is exactly what the Sheriff and Dallas County Commissioners Court chose to do. The result was worsening problems that caused a tax increase. And it's not just health care, but overcrowding and overall management. They occasionally just lose people in the jail. The feds issued their own criticisms jail healthcare in December, and already have monitors at the Dallas jail.

Incidentally, last year as complaints mounted, the Sheriff transferred responsibility for Dallas jail healthcare from UTMB-Galveston to a local provider, Parkland hospital. But even today, similar problems exist in other facilities where UTMB operates, particularly Texas' adult and youth prison systems (TDCJ and TYC). While the feds are at it, they should investigate healthcare in other carceral settings where UTMB operates, and I'll bet they'd find similar results.

RELATED: See Part One and Part Two of the 47 page report by the feds from December '06.


Anonymous said...

May I be the first to suggest jailing the offenders? And not just a hour a night, but the longest term allowable by law.

Anonymous said...

gritsforbreakfast said:

The only thing I find puzzling is why it took the feds this long to sue?

'If people treated animals this way, they would be prosecuted'

No one will be prosecuted and no one will do any prison time. The government could care less about its citizens. The government was clumsy, bumbling fools when it came to helping citizens in New Orleans. Two years later, the government is still clumsy, bumbling fools. The FBI has enough problems of their own, starting at the very top. How do you expect the FBI to help American's, when they can't even manage themselves?

American's need to understand that the government isn't our parents and they could careless about anyone of us, that is until we stopped paying taxes to them, then we would be noticed.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I agree no one will be prosecuted, but there's a good chance (based on what happened when the feds sued in California) that if the feds win they'll require dramatic improvements and simply require the county to pay. As far as bang for the buck, I wish the feds would intervene with the state prison system, but I guess everybody deals with one catastrophe at a time, and this one, no doubt, is ripe.

Anonymous said...

Federal government suing Texas state government, big freaking deal! If any money is paid out, where do you think they will get this money? The money will come from the tax payers of Texas. So what does the Texas state government care, it's not their money coming out of their pockets.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The feds don't sue jails for money, they sue to force reforms, which in this case IMO are needed.

Anonymous said...

It's a never ending cycle. Twenty years from now, like twenty years ago, they'll be suing for the same reforms. The band-aid will be put on and it'll eventually fall off. The wound will never heal.

Anonymous said...

They need reform in all the Justice System. Its broken. Inmates are dying in TDC from TB. Who checks on this. The families that visit get to bring it home to all. MRSA is an epidemic in TDC. Why do they not fix some of the medical problems along with the Justice System. I don't think they care enough to try. Let it be a stray dog or cat and it would make the Top Story for news. Don't let them find a dog on a chain but its okay to put a human in a cell and throw away the key. Whats wrong with these people?

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping they decide to sue UTMB/TYC for the shoddy health care provisions of UTMB. Rainer's self-serving testimony before the joint committee was sickening - pun intended! Old Salty

Anonymous said...

EMT, Nurse, Physician witnesses to egregious medical abuse at Bell County Jail seek help getting inmate released to try to heal. We do not trust UTMB and the Texan County jail system to give her minimal care she needs. She almost died in custody and is permanently disabled with severe chronic physical pain and suffering. Please help bring this case to the attention of the feds - please email me the contact information of the correct US attorney - as we have gotten only denials from Texas-level authorities despite medical proof and witnesses.

Melina said...

What makes this all even worse - if that's possible - is that many people held in Dallas jails are eventually found innocent of any crime. But they have to wait an average of 90 to 120 days for any sort of hearing.

Plus, our fair state's grand jury system makes it easy to indict just about anyone. (If anyone doesn't know how a grand jury functions, I suggest you Google it.)

As much as it pains me to admit this, I am now officially ashamed to be a Texan.

Anonymous said...

I need info on who to contact to sue the dallas sheriffs dept for withholding my mental medication while i was in their lovely facility . I am a decorated honorably discharged veteran , and feel their treatment was cruel and unsual . I treat my dog better than I was treated .

Anonymous said...

I was in the Dallas County jail for 10 hours. I have told them about all the health problems that I had and was told that because I was an out of county resident that I was not entitled to any health care. I was asked to sign a release of liability which I refused to do so. I knew that that signing such a thing would not make them liable. This is the reason why Dallas County gets sued so much. My health is important to me and this is no a third world country. Dallas County needs to get into the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

Parkland Hospital is not any better. My friend has been in the West Tower at Lew Sterrett for four months now, and has been denied his psych meds the entire time. Without any type of assessment they say he isn't bi-polar. He was diagnosed when he was 12 years old. It makes me so angry. I have filed a complaint with the board of medical examiners, and with Parkland Hospital. I haven't heard anything back, nor has the situation improved. (Big suiprise)