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New York Counties, Corizon Reach $1.85 Million Settlement in Detainee’s Death

Two New York counties agreed to pay $1.85 million to settle a lawsuit over the July 2011 death of detainee Irene Bamenga while she was under the care of private medical contractor Corizon Health.

Bamenga, a French citizen, tried to enter Canada from the U.S. on July 15, 2011 with the intention of traveling to Toronto to catch a plane to Paris. She was denied entry by Canadian Customs, apparently because she did not closely resemble her passport photo.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained her upon re-entering the U.S., determining her visa was no longer valid. She was transported to the Allegany County Jail (ACJ) to await deportation proceedings. During booking, Bamenga informed guards that she suffered from chronic congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition that requires an extensive regimen of medications to prevent serious illness or death.

At the time she was jailed, Bamenga had a three-month supply of medication with her. Despite ICE providing those medications to jail staff, Bamenga was denied her prescribed meds from July 15 to July 18. She received “some” medications that a nurse decided was the “usual” dosage, which was not consistent with Bamenga’s regimen. She began to experience symptoms of CHF, including shortness of breath, dizziness and difficulty breathing.

When Bamenga was transferred to the Albany County Correctional Facility on July 21, 2011, her three-month supply of medication went with her, but no effort was made to confirm her regimen. She twice made written requests describing her symptoms and seeking treatment. She received a medical assessment on July 26 that noted her CHF history, but indicated she would not be seen again for 90 days.

Shortly after midnight on July 27, 2011, Bamenga was found unresponsive in her cell with indications that she had died “long before her body was discovered.”

The lawsuit filed by her estate alleged “it was the policy and practice of Corizon to limit, as a cost saving measure, the medical care to detainees under its care,” in order to maximize its net profit.

The Times Union reported that Albany County and Allegany County reached settlements with Bamenga’s estate in April 2016. Allegany County paid $750,000 while Albany County settled for $1.1 million; the amount paid by Corizon was not known. See: Zikianda v. County of Albany, U.S.D.C. (N.D. NY), Case No. 1:12-cv-01194-TJM-DJS.

Additional source: Times Union

Related legal case

Zikianda v. County of Albany


 

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