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WHAT STEPS SHOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN BUT WEREN’T?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 10, 2016) — [Editor’s Note: Some readers may find the following material disturbing.]
Over the last two months, The Post & Email has been in contact with a Tennessee prison inmate who reported that prison personnel informed him he was possibly exposed to tuberculosis when his cellmate suddenly became ill in May 2014.
The inmates were housed at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, TN at the time. A relative of the inmate who wrote to us reported that the cellmate who became ill passed away as a result.
In a statement describing the incident, the inmate wrote that he became the victim of “Cruel and unusual Punishment and very Unprofessional Conduct” resulting from an alleged lack of proper medical treatment afterward.
“This inmate was in his mid sixties with a very bad Health problem,” the prisoner began the statement. “This inmate should not have been at this Facility not just of his health condition but due to the Great amount of time he was facing as well.” [sic]
The statement goes on to say that the inmate was awakened by what he “thought was water being spelled” on him from his cellmate in the top bunk. The inmate then said that after he recognized that his cellmate was vomiting blood, he pressed the “panic button” in the cell, to which he claimed no one responded for “about five minutes” because the panic button was dysfunctional. The inmate wrote that he therefore “started kicking on the door” to gain the attention of a correctional officer.
He reported that when an employee finally responded to his calls for help, it then took “around Ten (10) minutes” for additional officers to arrive.
The inmate reported that he was not immediately permitted to change his clothing, which he said became bloodied during the incident. “I was taken to Guild four,(4) known as walk up or the Hole,” he wrote in his statement. While medical personnel came to take blood and two internal affairs officers reportedly “interrogated” him about what happened, the inmate said that he was not allowed to shower for more than 24 hours after his exposure to his cellmate’s bodily fluids. He alleges that he developed a rash and was told by a female prison employee that his cellmate possibly had suffered from tuberculosis.
“I had to fill out a sick call before I could be seen,” he wrote. “And until I fill out the sick call I wasn’t going to be seen by Medical I filled out the sick call forum and two Days later after I filled out the sick call Medical came to see me and gave me this Cream that did nothing for me.”
“Keep in mind that I was taken to the Hole Sunday Night at a little after 2:00 am and I wasn’t allowed to shower till Tuesday Night till around 8:45 pm although I was brought a change of cloths I wasn’t given any thing to put on my feet in the shower and due to me being denied any of my property I was forced to shower without any protection on my feet I developed a rash on my feet as well. For over 2 Years I’ve been trying to contact some one from the out side concerning this matter,” [sic] he wrote in the second-to-the-last paragraph of his statement on page 2.
In a grievance dated May 25, 2014, the inmate responded to a request for the “Description of Problem” with “Possible exposure to T.B../Inmates with bad health condiction! need’s to be held where treatment is better.” [sic]
In the grievance narrative, the inmate identified himself as the “petitioner.”
The facility’s May 30, 2014 response under the signature of Cpl. Gillihan reads, “You must state a requested solution.”