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$12,500 Settlement for Pennsylvania Prisoner Denied Medication

$12,500 Settlement for Pennsylvania Prisoner Denied Medication

by David Reutter

Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) agreed to pay $12,500 to settle two lawsuits claiming guards and medical staff had failed to treat a prisoner’s epilepsy.

The suits involved the treatment of prisoner Tonja Jackson at ACJ. Following her arrest in January 2009, Jackson’s medication, Dilantin, was confiscated. She alleged she was denied her medicine for a week and again on February 6, 2009. That day, she told a guard that she was experiencing “auras,” an indication she may be about to have a seizure.

The guard informed Jackson it was not “medication time” and refused to call a nurse. Subsequently, Jackson told jailers that “if she was going to die from lack of medication, she would do it on the spot in front of the [surveillance] camera rather than alone in her cell.”

That prompted jail staff to put Jackson in handcuffs to escort her to another part of ACJ. The suit alleged a captain threatened to use a Taser on her, and she was taken to the mental health unit.

On the way there, the guard who initially denied her medication told her, “Just because Obama is president don’t mean you’re still not a [racial slur].” Jackson, who is African-American, then suffered a seizure; according to her complaint, at that time two guards forced her to the floor “and assaulted and battered her, while she was confined by handcuffs behind her back and leg shackles, thus causing her to suffer a complex comminuted fracture of her left shoulder and other serious injuries.”

Jackson claimed she experienced 14 convulsions before ACJ provided her medication and sent her to a hospital. Her lawsuits, one naming the county and individual defendants, and the other, removed from state court, naming the county and the jail’s medical provider, settled in August 2013 following three years of litigation. See: Jackson v. County of Allegheny, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Penn.), Case Nos. 2:10-cv-01756-MPK and 2:12-cv-01813-CB-MPK.

At the time that Jackson was incarcerated at ACJ, medical care was provided by Allegheny Correctional Health Services. The jail’s medical contractor changed to Corizon Health in 2013, although that apparently did not result in improved care for prisoners at the facility – with numerous problems cited in a December 2014 audit, including seven deaths in the prior year. [See: PLN, March 2015, p.30].




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Related legal case

Jackson v. County of Allegheny