$1.5 Million Settlement Provided to Immigrant Prisoner Who Lost Leg in Colorado Jail
by David M. Reutter
The insurance company for Colorado’s Park County Jail has agreed to settle a former prisoner’s medical neglect lawsuit for $1.5 million. The suit was brought by Moises Carranza-Reyes, who was held in the jail for an immigration violation.
Carranza-Reyes was arrested on March 1, 2003, while en route to Chicago to work with his father. He, and several others, were arrested after their truck was stopped because they were illegally in the United States.
They were all taken to the Park County Jail. After booking, Carranza-Reyes, a former Mexico City police sergeant, was crammed into a jail pod with 60 other prisoners. The pod, which was designed to hold 18 people, was being overfilled to make money in a leasing space scheme to house state and federal prisoners.
“Park County Jail attempted to boost its net revenues by cutting basic human essentials, such as medical care, heat, clean laundry, and clean housing,” said Carranza-Reyes’s lawyer [and PLN board member], Bill Trine, in 2005. “As a result of prison profiteering, we’re seeing human rights abuses that we’d never expect to see in this country.”
For clothing, Carranza-Reyes was issued a “foul-smelling,” dirty uniform. He was forced to sleep on the floor on a soiled mattress between two prisoners that were so sick he had to feed them. Soon thereafter, Carranza-Reyes developed strep throat.
Four days after complaining of aches and chills, he was taken to the Denver Health Medical Center. By then, he had pneumonia and his legs were black with gangrene. He was given a two-percent chance of survival by doctors after he suffered a heart attack and went into a coma.
To save his life, doctors had to amputate his gangrenous left leg and remove part of a lung. His lawsuit claimed his medical condition was caused by the jail’s “inhumane conditions.”
On December 18, 2007, Carranza-Reyes settled his lawsuit for $1.5 million with Park County. Previous to that settlement, he had settled for an undisclosed amount with the jail’s physician medical director. Under the settlement, neither party may discuss the case.
The silence clause may be the result of the political uproar that has surrounded the case.
An outcry occurred as a result of Carranza-Reyes’s lawsuit. Many people are upset that an illegal immigrant would not only expect to receive free medical care, but now receives a large settlement for damages caused by the horrendous confinement conditions and lack of medical care he was subjected to.
“I am truly sorry Moises Carranza-Reyes has lost his leg,” a Denver man wrote in a letter to the Rocky Mountain News in 2005. “But if he had not been in this country illegally, he would still have his leg.” That seems to miss the point that if Park County had not been cramming prisoners into spaces designed for fewer than it was housing to achieve increased revenues, the odds of prisoners becoming deathly ill would be less likely.
Likewise if the jail were to meet its legal obligation to house prisoners in sanitary conditions and provide timely medical care when needed. See: Carranza-Reyes v. Park County, Colorado USDC, D. Colo, Case No: 05-CV-00377.
Additional source: Rocky Mountain News
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