Father of Inmate Reports Diabetic Shoes Finally Received


by Sharon Rondeau

(Feb. 6, 2018) — On Tuesday evening, Mr. Robert Z. Whipple, father of a Tennessee prison inmate by the same name, reported that his son finally received the diabetic shoes prescribed for him by a TDOC physician nearly three months ago.

Just before Christmas, Robert Z. Whipple, III, #399615, threatened to file a lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) and its medical provider, Centurion, for failing to honor Dr. Belknap’s written prescription for the shoes.  At the same time, he asked for permission “to order a pair of shoes at my own expense that fit properly.”

A longtime inmate at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex (BCCX), Whipple has filed four lawsuits while there alleging a number of violations, including the non-dispensing of prescription medication, a denial of access to the federal law library on the premises, and the TDOC’s failure to honor his original projected parole date over four years ago.

Belknap diagnosed Whipple with “full-blown diabetes” this past fall as well as diabetic neuropathy, which causes nerve pain in the feet, legs, and sometimes the hands.

In a series of letters and grievances dating back to November, Whipple documented the myriad of attempts he made to obtain the shoes through normal TDOC and medical channels.  He reported that his feet were causing him constant pain due to ill-fitting prison boots which did not provide for the extra-wide width he needs.  Additionally, Whipple has a prison job which requires that he constantly be on his feet; most recently, he wrote in a letter that he was considering working barefoot to escape the constant discomfort.

In early January, neither Centurion Managed Care nor the TDOC responded to our queries as to why the prescription had not been filled after two months.

On Tuesday Whipple’s father told us:

Just wanted to let you know that Robert finally received the correct shoes that fit.  The warden had approved a special delivery so that the shoes I had to purchase for him could be available before his package month.  The staff that handles the union supply shipments refused to deliver them to Robert even though the warden had previously approved it and Robert had given them a copy of the signed order as soon as I told him they were on the way.

Union Supply” is a TDOC-approved provider of electronics, clothing, footwear, jewelry, and other items inmates need or frequently request.

Whipple’s lawsuits on the issues of the law library and his delayed parole remain pending.

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