Inmates denied proper medical attention, updated jail lawsuit claims

Montgomery County Jail
Caption
Montgomery County Jail

When attorneys representing Montgomery County asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit alleging overcrowding and mistreatment of county jail inmates, they said the complaint lacked detailed allegations.

In response, attorneys representing at least eight current or former Montgomery County Jail inmates filed an amended complaint in which they cite specific incidents of alleged arbitrary punishment and a lack of medical and mental health care.

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Three months after independent consultants told a jail advisory group that the facility had serious staffing problems, the amended complaint asked for relief for the “willful failure or deliberate indifference to constitutional, statutory and administrative mandates including but not limited to jail overcrowding, serious medical needs of inmates, unsanitary conditions dangerous to health and welfare, proper classification of inmates, and the imposition of punishment in the form of lock-downs in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”

Susan Blasik-Miller, an attorney representing the county, wrote in one filing that “Sheriff (Phil) Plummer denies the jail is overcrowded,” denied constitutional violations from the original complaint and said the Montgomery County Jail is one of only four jails in Ohio accredited by the American Correctional Association.

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Montgomery County attorneys have not addressed the amended complaint, which includes these inmate allegations:

• Keith Barber entered the jail with a leg wound for which he was prescribed a wheelchair for two months. The wheelchair was considered a safety risk due to overcrowding, and corrections officers decided after three weeks that Barber no longer needed it because he was seen doing rehabilitation exercises ordered by his doctor. The complaint said Barber experienced severe pain and was unable to get a complaint or grievance form from those same officers despite multiple requests.

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• Kevin Bowling was booked on a misdemeanor for which the bail was $2,500 and kept in a cold first-floor cell with no blanket or pillow for two days while he was denied access to a phone. The complaint said Bowling’s family could have afforded the bail, but his bond was increased to $25,000, and his verbal anger resulted in him being locked down for 23 hours per day. To get to the “range” area for his one hour, Bowling must go through an area “filled with feces and urine thrown from other inmates.”

• Dearron Burrage was housed in “an area of the jail that has extremely unsanitary facilities,” developed a painful growth on his left leg and was only given a bandage. The growth increased in size, so Burrage burst it himself, releasing “a cottage-cheese-like liquid.” Prescribed an antibiotic, Burrage was asked by medical staff why he wasn’t seen sooner and was told “they had nothing in their records.”

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• Jamichael Howard requested medical care in June for a sexually transmitted disease but was never given grievance and complaint forms. Howard’s condition got worse, and he wasn’t seen and treated until a month later after his attorney “walked around the jail demanding that medical personnel see his client.”

• Devin Washington entered the jail on Aug. 21 while recovering from a crushed pelvis that limited his strength and mobility. The complaint said “corrections officers decided that he should be housed on the top bunk.” Washington had not been relocated a month later and was denied grievance or complaint forms.

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• Alston Nicholas “suffered from 24-hour lock-downs and other arbitrary punishment based upon the actions of others” which denied his access to legal materials and counsel.

• Tyree Patterson returned to the jail from another facility after being restored to mental competency. “Due to overcrowded conditions and improper classification of inmates that placed him on the old side of the jail, his mental competency began to deteriorate,” the complaint said, adding that Patterson could only be moved by two officers if he was completely shackled.

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• Edward E. Bellman asked to see a physician 10 times because he had bloody stools and had a prior diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The complaint said Bellman hadn’t seen a specialist by Sept. 24 and was housed in “rollover” where the toilet is an an open area of an eight-man, bunk bed cell and subject to physical attacks.

The amended complaint reiterated a state jail inspection determined the jail capacity to be 443 and that facility’s population is often more than 800.

Blasik-Miller listed the charges against original plaintiffs Alston and Barber, wrote that overcrowding is not a constitutional violation and that “there is not a shred of evidence” that they were deprived of essentials.

Court records show Alston recently was acquitted on all five counts by a jury and that Barber’s trial is next week.

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