Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

California County Settles Suits over Two Jail Prisoners’ Deaths for $1.6 Million

In mid-2014, Sutter County, California settled lawsuits brought by the families of two county jail prisoners who died. The family of Rodney Bock received $800,000 while the family of Nathan Prasad received $825,000. The jail also initiated some health care reforms.

Bock, 56, suffered from mental illness and was having a psychotic episode when his family took him to the county mental health facility in early April 2010, with an order form Superior Court to admit him to the Napa State Hospital for treatment. Instead, he was incarcerated in the jail for failure to appear. According to court documents, on April 29, 2010, Bock experienced “a violent and psychotic episode, including repeated and forceful banging of his head and body against a hard cell wall, causing substantial bleeding and hemorrhaging, and his hanging himself in the jail.”

The lawsuit alleged jail officials ignored obvious signs of Bock’s deteriorating condition with fatal results. As part of the Bock settlement, the jail hired a new medical director, two nurses with emergency room experience, a public health nurse and a licensed vocational nurse. See: Bock v. County of Sutter, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:11-cv-00536-MCE-KJN.

Nathan Prasad, 30, was booked into the jail for minor parole related charges on January 21, 2011. He had experienced recurrent antibiotic resistant staph (MRSA) infections after contracting such an infection during a previous incarceration a year earlier. Prasad also had a history of mental illness.

Prasad soon showed signs of infection, including bruises on his legs and pain in his lower extremities. On January 26, 2011, he was taken to the emergency room at Rideout Memorial Hospital. However, hospital medical personnel were not informed of his MRSA infection history. Prasad was discharged with instructions for jail personnel to bring him back should his symptoms worsen or new symptoms appear.

Prasad’s condition continued to deteriorate. He was in great pain, had trouble breathing and was coughing up blood. Fellow prisoners tried to secure medical treatment for him, even saving the bloody mucus in a milk carton to show the guards. Guards and jail medical staff ridiculed Prasad, accusing him of faking symptoms or coming to jail just to get free medical care.

Very early on January 28, 2011, after Prasad had been pleading for help for hours, a nurse noted dangerously low blood pressure and blood oxygenation, bloody vomit, and that Prasad was dizzy, sweating, cold and clammy. He was later, placed in an office at the jail but not provided medical treatment. Four hours later, after his skin turned blue from lack of oxygen, Prasad was transported to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a septic infection.

In an attempt to cover up the denial of medical care, the jail quickly discharged Prasad. He died the afternoon of January 28, 2011, after having experienced severe bronchopneumonia, multiple organ failure and excruciating pain. Prisoners who had tried to get help for Prasad hid a note explaining how he died in a visiting pastor’s Bible. It was given to Prasad’s mother.

Prasad’s family filed a federal civil rights suit against the county, sheriff, hospital, ER doctor, 7 jail medical employees and 11 guards. After the court refused to dismiss the vast majority of the claims against the defendants, the county settled the suit for $835,000.

The settlements came over six years after a Sutter County grand jury criticized the health care provided to prisoners at the jail. The Bock and Prasad families, along with the sheriff, have advocated for around-the-clock medical care at the 352 bed jail, thus far to no avail. See: Prasad v. County of Sutter, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:12-cv-00592-TLN-JFM.

Additional source:

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal cases

Prasad v. County of Sutter

Bock v. County of Sutter