Jail Healthcare Causes Needless Deaths

By David Eugene Archer Sr.
Journalism Guild Writer

Needless deaths have happened in jails because of a broken healthcare system, according to a CBS News investigation.

One of the nation’s largest healthcare providers for county jails, Advanced Correctional Healthcare (ACH), is fighting multiple lawsuits. The company serves 255 correctional facilities in 17 states, said Jeff Glor for CBS News.

Dante Wilson, 39, was in a Wisconsin jail for a child support violation. He complained of chest pains. The jail nurse thought he had heartburn and gave him two Tums. Less than an hour later, Wilson asked for help again. “Relax,” was the nurse’s advice. Soon after, Wilson died of a heart attack.

The nurse told a detective: “Yeah, we don’t wanna drag it out, s–t happens.” The nurse was fired. She worked for ACH.

“Dante Wilson’s death was not unique. We found ACH settled at least six lawsuits with families whose relatives died from preventable causes. Like Wilson, the inmates were charged with non-violent offenses,” reported CBS News in April.

Danny Ray Burden, a diabetic accused of insurance fraud, asked for insulin, but never got it and collapsed, a police investigation showed.

“He didn’t deserve a death sentence at Grant County jail,” said his brother, Mark Burden, a retired Kentucky state police detective.

The investigation found that Burden should have been sent straight to the hospital just next door.

Some might say inmates can’t expect the best possible healthcare coverage, but Mark Burden disagrees. “I think that if you go to jail and you got a medical condition, like my brother … you should be checked out by a physician at any hospital,” he said.

Six weeks before Danny Ray died, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to the jail warning, “Unqualified staff are serving as gatekeepers to medical care.”

“ACH would not talk to CBS News on camera, but they told us, ‘Staffing decisions are dictated by local jail administration,’” the news program stated.

Problems with ACH medical staff extend beyond Kentucky, the broadcast reported. A nurse in Tennessee was convicted of covering up his failure to take an inmate’s vital signs. The inmate died of a drug and alcohol overdose, reported CBS News.

Another inmate died from a bleeding ulcer in Ohio, where the medical examiner concluded the “need for urgent medical intervention” would have been obvious to anyone.

In one Alabama jail, three wrongful death lawsuits are pending – including one by the family of a 19-year-old accused of shoplifting. He was found naked with gangrene in his leg, reported CBS News.

ACH claims they provide better healthcare than inmates would receive outside of jail, and at a competitive price. But Mark Burden commented, “At the expense of someone’s life–at the expense of my brother’s life.”

ACH lost its contract with the jail where Danny Ray Burden died, reported CBS News.

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