By Adrian Lomax
[Editorial Note :While medical neglect by our captors is nothing new, we are printing this piece because of the commonness of the events described, not because it is "news " to those of us on the inside .]
On the evening of March 30, 1992, Joseph Griffin was locked in his cell on the top tier of the Southwest Cell Hall at Waupun, Wisconsin's end-of-the-line max joint. At about 6:15 p.m., "Grif", as he was known to Waupun convicts, sent a tier tender down to the Sgt.'s station with a message that he was feeling ill and wanted to see the medical personnel. Sgt. Steve Tetzlaff, the guard in charge of the cell hall for the evening shift, ignored the message.
At 6:30 Grif began yelling down to Tetzlaff, insisting that he needed medical attention. Tetzlaff continued to ignore him. Around 6:45, Grif's pleas became louder, and several other inmates joined in yelling for medical staff.
At 7:00 Tetzlaff sent a guard up on the tier to see what the problem was. Grif told the guard that he was experiencing extreme pain in his head. He said he was having dizzy spells and losing his vision. Grif said something was seriously wrong and he needed medical attention.
The guard whipped out his radio and relayed the symptoms to Sgt. Tetzlaff. Tetzlaff responded by telling the guard to give Grif some Tylenol. He did not summon medical staff.
Grif and several other prisoners continued yelling for medics. At about 7:15, Sgt. Tetzlaff came up on the tier to tell everyone to quiet down and to take a look at Grif. Tetzlaff decided that Grif was looking pretty bad. He rushed down and summoned the medical staff.
The medical staff showed up forty-five minutes after Tetzlaff called them. When they did arrive, the medics immediately recognized Grif was in serious trouble. They summoned an ambulance and carried Grif out on a stretcher. Grif was removed from the cell hall at 8:15 p.m., two hours after he first requested to see the medics. Of course, guards delayed the transport long enough to restrain Grif with handcuffs and leg irons.
Grif was pronounced dead at an outside hospital a t 9:00 the next morning. The autopsy has not yet been completed, but the preliminary cause of death is listed as aneurysm. Grif was 36 years old.
Brazen indifference to prisoners' medical requests is routine at Waupun, as at most joints. Those who witnessed this murder by neglect have been busy contacting reporters, trying to get the facts out to the public. The DOC denies any impropriety.
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