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Prison Medical Contractor Sued in Inmate’s Death

Minnesota prisons utilize a private contractor for the medical care of prisoners and now that contractor is being sued for the wrongful death of an inmate who died from complications due to seizures in the Rush City prison.

The suit filed in federal court, alleges that a Corizon, Inc. doctor did not order an ambulance to come to the prison when prisoner Xavius Scullark-Johnson started having seizures. The suit further alleges that an ambulance crew was turned away by a nurse at the prison the next morning.

Corizon, which is based in Tennessee, is estimated to receive $28 million for its duties in caring for the 9,200 inmates in Minnesota’s prisons. The Minnesota Department of Corrections has also been named in the lawsuit that questions the quality of care that is being received by inmates.

The lawsuit states that the defendants left Scullark-Johnson in his cell by himself as he had a number of seizures. He was unable to control his body, was disoriented, and had received injuries from the seizures.

Corrections officials state that the Minnesota prison inmates receive the standard of care that the law requires them to have, which they say is equal to the care received by anyone in Minnesota.

In addition to these accusations against the doctor for Corizon, the lawsuit alleges that there were three nurses with the Corrections Department, as well as four prison guards that failed to care for Scullark-Johnson as he suffered as many as six seizures within a five hour period.

Undisclosed records have shown that the corrections officers responsible for Scullark-Johnson did not document his condition although they did remove his cellmate to another area after the cellmate was complaining that an ambulance should be sent.

This lawsuit has raised a number of questions regarding quality of care within prisons since it has been found that nine state prisoners have died due to the alleged denial of medical care. Another 21 inmates have allegedly suffered critical or very serious injuries due to the denial of care. It is believed that the staffing arrangements that are specified within the state’s contract with Corizon have played a role in the death and injury claims. The staffing arrangement entails nurses leaving by 11 p.m., which means corrections officers are the ones in charge of medical care.

According to court documents, the nurse who had turned away the ambulance for Scullark-Johnson, said to corrections investigators that she was not given adequate information by the overnight officers about the condition of Scullark-Johnson. However, the Corrections lieutenant said that she was informed that at least three seizures occurred and that his cellmate said there were at least six or seven seizures. The officer said that the nurse told him to let Scullark-Johnson sleep.

After turning the ambulance away, the nurse returned an hour later and found Scullark-Johnson face down in his cell and he was not responding. The ambulance then returned and the crew took him to a medical center where he was pronounced dead that night. He was taken off life support the next day.

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