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$95,000 Settlement in Suit Over Idaho Jail Prisoner's Death

by Matt Clarke

In April 2016, a federal civil rights lawsuit against Canyon County, Idaho, over the death of a county jail prisoner due to denial of medical care was settled for $95,000.

Alfred Girrard Young, 46, was booked into the Dale G. Haile Detention Center in Canyon County, Idaho, to serve "discretionary jail time" for a violation of his probation on drug charges. Young, who was black and HIV-positive, had previously been incarcerated at the jail and previously been a plaintiff in a federal class-action lawsuit with the assistance of the ACLU that alleged jail officials retaliated against him for filing grievances about being given improper doses of his prescribed medication, Young v. Smith, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:11-cv-00579-REB. That case has been settled.

Conditions of confinement at the jail had also been the subject of a previous ACLU-assisted federal class-action lawsuit alleging, among other things, overcrowding and inadequate ventilation allowing the buildup of "stale and foul air" and increasing the risk of "air-borne diseases, headaches, dizziness, and other physical and mental ailments." Davis v. Canyon County, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:09-cv-00107.

Within a week of his latest confinement at the jail, Young began suffering from diarrhea and breathing difficulties. He was choking on vomit at night and eventually started "coughing up blood." He notified jail personnel in health services requests and grievances, but was not seen by medical personnel for more than a month. During his six weeks of incarceration, Young was never seen by a physician and several times was examined by the health services administrator, rather than trained medical personnel.

Despite being repeatedly brought to the medical unit complaining of severe pain and difficulty breathing and even after tests showed his blood oxygen level at 88 percent, Young was not treated for an obvious serious respiratory infection. Instead, his symptoms were treated and charted as if they were being caused by "anxiety," "muscoskeletal" issues and acid reflux.

Eventually, Young was discovered unconscious with a blood oxygen level of 82 percent in a medical holding cell where he had been waiting over four hours to be seen by medical personnel. Not bothering to call an ambulance, jail staff bundled him into a van and drove him to a local hospital where he died. Hospital physicians told Young's family that he likely would have survived had he been brought there earlier.

Aided by Boise attorneys Craig H. Durham and Deborah A. Ferguson, Young's estate filed a federal civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Canyon County, Sheriff Kieran Donahue and several jail employees. In April 2016, the county settled the lawsuit for $95,000.

The county also agreed to conduct an educational/training session with jail medical staff.

See: Tiller v. Canyon County, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:15-cv-00513-BLW.

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