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Delaware: Inadequate Medical Care Results in Prisoner’s Death

by Kevin Bliss

Lisa Roseanne Peace, a former nurse with Connections Community Support Services (CCSS), waited almost 20 minutes before calling 911 after finding prisoner James J. Daniels on the floor of the chow hall at the Delaware Sussex Community Corrections Center, unresponsive, incontinent and foaming at the mouth.

Daniels, 40, was serving a six-month sentence for a probation violation in April 2016 when he collapsed. It was only after no pulse could be detected – 18 minutes later – that paramedics were called. He was transported to the Beebe Medical Center in Lewes and pronounced dead an hour later.

When Daniels’ death was reported there was no explanation of the cause. The Delaware News Journal discovered three years later that Peace had been fired over the incident. Her superior filed a complaint with the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation’s Board of Nursing, accusing her of failing to “provide an appropriate medical response” to Daniels. A copy of the facility’s security video of the incident was supplied to the Board for review. The footage and report were later made public and reported by the Journal.

Peace, represented by attorney Gary Alderson, reportedly provided “incompetent and egregious” medical care to Daniels. The complaint filed against her said she did not check his blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, pain reaction or pupil dilation, and that she twice left him unattended. Peace’s only defense was that it was CCSS’s policy not to call 911 without approval from the chief medical officer unless a prisoner was experiencing cardiac arrest or had hanged himself. No defense was given for her failure to provide adequate medical care.

Board of Nursing president Pamela Zickafoose suspended Peace’s license for one year after the Board found that she had “clearly failed to comply with legal and acceptable standards of nursing. “Overall, the Board found Ms. Peace’s conduct particularly egregious when she failed to further assess the inmate by not taking his blood pressure and leaving him multiple times when he was in clear distress,” Zickafoose said.

Hearing officer Roger Akin wrote that CCSS’s policy was problematic even though the purpose might be to maintain security, reduce costs and prevent false alarms. That policy was subsequently changed. He also said he did not believe that Peace, a 25-year practicing nurse, was incompetent or intended to jeopardize Daniels’ health. In 2017, Peace found a new job as a nurse at a Pennsylvania correctional facility.

Several similar cases have resulted in Delaware Governor John Carney seeking an independent review of the Department of Corrections’ healthcare services. Communications director Jonathan Starkey said the governor was focused on improving conditions in the state’s prison system. 

“There is no quick or easy fix, but the governor remains committed to making progress,” Starkey stated. 

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Sources: delawareonline.com, Associated Press, delmarvapublicradio.net 

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