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Corizon Sued Over Death of Prisoner in St. Louis Jail

The St. Louis Lawyer's Group is helping the family of a man who died five days after arriving at the St. Louis Justice Center sue the jail's private medical services provider, Corizon. The suit alleges denial of medical care to a seriously ill prisoner resulting in his death.

Courtland Lucas was a 31-year-old man with a history of drug and traffic offenses when he was arrested for parole violation. Because he was complaining of chest pains, he was taken to the St. Alexius Hospital where doctors gave him insulin and set out a plan for checking his blood sugar level. Then he was incarcerated in the St. Louis Justice Center where a jail doctor ordered a similar plan.

Lucas had a history of serious heart disease. His medical records showed several heart valve replacements and a hospitalization for swelling and an irregular heartbeat. He was also diabetic with high blood pressure and a pacemaker.

Unfortunately, jail medical staff didn't take his complaints very seriously. From his medical records, it appears that blood sugar level checks were missed and blood sugar levels as high as 325 were not treated with insulin. When Lucas began complaining of hallucinations, he was ignored and one nurse wrote in his medical records that he was staging all of his episodes. A doctor who had left instructions that he be contacted should Lucas's mental state change was never called.

Medical services at the jail are contracted to Corizon, the nation's largest private prisoner health care provider. Headquartered in St. Louis, Corizon--which was formed by the 2011 merger of Correctional Medical Services with PHS Correctional Healthcare--has medical contracts with 400 jails and prisons holding more than 400,000 prisoners throughout the country.

St. Louis mayor Francis Slay maintains that the city takes its obligation to provide prisoners health care seriously and spends close to $7 million a year to do so. That is cold comfort to Lucas's family, including his minor son, Trayon Lucas-McNary, in whose name the lawsuit was filed.

Sixteen hours before his death, Lucas's blood sugar was noted at 325, but he was apparently not even given insulin to treat his condition. Nurses attempting to draw his blood were unable to do so because it was too thick.

Two hours before his death, Lucas's heart rate was 160. Fifteen minutes later, a jail physician ordered his immediate emergency transport to a hospital. An hour and fifteen minutes later, Lucas was still in the jail. He collapsed while sitting in a wheelchair in a cell. Ten minutes later, paramedics arrived to take Lucas to the hospital where he was pronounced dead 44 minutes later.

Lucas's is not the first case of allegedly medical neglect at the St. Louis jail. A lawsuit over the 2007 death of LaVonda Kimble, 30, was settled in 2011. In 2010, the ACLU alleged in a federal lawsuit that a HIV+ prisoner had been denied his HIV medications for 17 days. The jail's medical staff is also accused of having ignored the medical needs of Vanessa Evans, 37, an asthmatic prisoner who died after complaining of having difficulty breathing in 2010. A 1998 St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation uncovered over 20 cases of prisoners dying due to indifference, negligence, understaffing, inadequate training or cost-cutting. These examples of inadequate medical care eloquently argue for never allowing private companies to become profiteering parasites on the people by contracting to provide essential government services such as medical care for prisoners. Source:

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