Prison Negligence and Inmate Rights

Inmates Still Have Rights

By Aaron Jophlin

Prisoners have rights, just like everyone else. Unlike people outside the prison walls, however, inmates are often forgotten citizens, at the mercy of a penal system that often treats them like they’re invisible. Crimes of prison negligence and abuse are rampant, yet these violations fly under the radar and are non-existent, or unimportant, to the outside world. The case of Manfred Dehe (as reported in Newsweek, July 22, 2015) is a prime example of the type of criminal negligence that state or federal penitentiaries perpetuate, yet very seldom are held accountable for.

The Case of Manfred Dehe

On October 14, 2014, Manfred Dehe died of “complications of metastatic prostate carcinoma.” The real tragedy, however, is the fact that he suffered unnecessarily for two years due to neglect and disinterest. In fact, had the symptoms been addressed early on—when he first informed authorities and caregivers in the prison system—he may very well be alive today. Symptoms such as severe weight loss, frequent urination, and highly elevated antigen (PSA) levels were ignored repeatedly over the course of 18 months. It wasn’t until the situation could no longer be avoided that he received a prostate biopsy. The date was August 9, 2013, nearly two years after the first symptoms (weight loss) were reported.

Manfred’s son, Mark, visited his father often during this time period and witnessed the decline of his father firsthand. He saw it all—from the initial weight loss, to the eventual blotchy skin, red bruises, and bed sores on his feet and buttocks. “It was very, very painful to see that—to watch somebody deteriorate in front of you, to see the nurses not care, like he was an inconvenience.” He adds that one infirmary staffer actually said: “Why don’t you just throw a sheet over him? Because he smells like he’s dead.”

Has someone you love suffered from prison neglect?

If so, you may have a case. It is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to determine if your loved one’s rights were violated. As I said at the outset, inmates have rights. Penitentiaries and correctional facilities are obligated by law to operate according to certain standards in order to provide adequate health care to prisoners. The problem is these facilities often lack the financial resources or the staff necessary to provide appropriate care. According to David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the prison system is by and large ill equipped to provide responsive medical care to ensure patient well being. “The problem is a structure that creates incentives to delay and deny care.”

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