Since the for-profit California Forensic Medical Group (CFMC) took over healthcare at the Santa Cruz County Jail last year, the medical staff has been forcing police to take more injured suspects to the hospital before they get booked, likely because the potential liability would hurt CFMC's bottom line
"If the (jail) staff is at all wary," says Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark, "they turn us right around."
Unfortunately, it might have taken a jailed heroin addict's death on Nov. 20, 2012 to persuade CFMC to extend the practice to prisoners withdrawing from drug abuse.
On Thanksgiving morning, the family of Brant Monnett, 47, was notified by the jail that the Santa Cruz tattoo artist was found unresponsive in a detoxification cell, given CPR and declared dead two nights prior. The county coroner's office had not yet determined the cause of his death by the time local media reported the story.
Monnett, who had family in nearby Redding, Calif., and a daughter in Oregon, was the third person to die in the Santa Cruz jail since August and the second since the medical staff was privatized in September. Yet, jail Lt. Shea Johnson said that care for prisoners has improved in recent months, and argued that medical staff cared for Monnett quickly.
"We get a lot of (medical) coverage throughout the night," Johnson said. "The program manager was there right away."
After cops were called the night of Nov. 18 about someone doing drugs outside a building in Santa Cruz, Monnett was allegedly found there cutting off the bottom of an aluminum can to cook heroin. Police say they chased and fought with Monnett before finding his syringe and arresting him for suspicion of heroin possession.
According to police, Monnett had injuries, but none serious enough to take him to the hospital. A jail nurse assessed his condition and asked about prior drug use, and once it was determined he had recently used drugs, he was seen by a doctor. Monnett was then placed on a "detox protocol," which purportedly includes checks from medical staff. However, it's unclear what other treatment or medications, if any, are included in the protocol.
Two days later, Monnett died in his bunk bed.
According to Susie Monnett, Brant's stepmother, the jail was preparing a report for the family about a week after his death. The coroner was waiting for toxicology results before releasing the findings of an autopsy.
"Naturally, we want to make sure everything was taken care of in the way it should have been," said Susie Monnett, adding that her stepson's death was "a shocker."
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