Over the past seven months there have been two separate instances of Texas inmates dying in private prisons due to negligence. The first instance was of Thomas Detric Adderson, 32, who died in the Willacy County jail in Raymondville, TX on June 10. This facility is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The inmate, Adderson, had been diagnosed with asthma as a child, and was allowed the use of his home nebulizer (or “breathing machine”) a few hours before his death. However, a few hours later, he went into an asthma attack. Adderson was then sent to the infirmary and administered another usage of his nebulizer as before. He asked for his handheld inhaler, but was denied it. He died a few hours later.
Willacy County attorney known for fighting against private prison abuses, Juan Angel Guerra, is the defending lawyer on the case. He stated, “I’ve talked to doctors and they’ve said that nowadays it is very rare for people to die of an asthma attack…I haven’t started investigations inside the jail but everything indicates that he died of an asthma attack” (TM). After his death, Adderson’s mother was given eight empty asthma inhalers, along with other possessions. Guerra states that Adderson’s decision to keep the empty inhalers could indicate that he was not receiving his proper daily medication, because “if you’re really having an attack you grab all the pumps you see if it has a little bit of medication” (TM). If Adderson had been properly medicated, there would be no need to save nearly empty inhalers in case of an attack–he most likely felt as though if he had an attack he wouldn’t get the proper medicine, thus, he kept his empty inhalers out of desperation.
The second case of negligence was commited by Louisisana-based LCS Corrections earlier this month in the Brooks County jail earlier in January of this year. Mario Alberto Garcia was held in the facility on charges of bid-rigging. Normally white-collar criminals are left out of jail until sentenced, but Garcia’s judge decided that his mental condition might result in his suicide. Juan Reyna, an attorney representing Garcia’s family, said Garcia had a medical condition. Reyna, who declined to identify the condition, said Garcia’s family knew of it and warned jail officials about it. “The family had some major concerns with respect to medical treatment Mr. Garcia was receiving,” Reyna said. “The family made it very clear regarding medical treatment” (TPB). Despite the documentation, Garcia contracted a seizure while in prison and was not given any medicine to quell the episode, resulting in his death. Last Thursday, Garcia’s family announced their pending lawsuit against LCS Corrections for unspecified damages in the negligence and failure to render medication to the inmate (CT).
Earlier this month, PPW covered developments in The GEO Group’s psychiatric ward to open in Houston. While neither of these cases have links to The GEO Group, it does leave room for concern that private prison companies are not administering proper care to their inmates. If seemingly simple requests for inhaler use or seizure medication are not granted, one can only imagine what the effects might be if a private prison company were to run an entire ward of nothing but prisoners with poor mental health.