The state of Colorado is paying $171,000 to the estate of Dennis Choquette, a former inmate at Southern Colorado prison.
Choquette alleged, for two years, that medical staff at the facility were deliberately refusing him treatment. He was detained at prisons in Las Animas and Canon City from 2014 until his death last November.
“Mr. Choquette would not have died when he did if he had been operated on while he was medically stable,” claimed the lawsuit, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in Denver.
The former inmate wasn’t taken to a hospital until his condition significantly worsened in October. He remained in treatment for a month until he passed away.
According to The Chieftan, Choquette began requesting treatment for “a series foot disease” when he was being held at Bent County Correctional Facility in 2014.
Rather than taking Choquette’s complaints in stride, the facility’s medical staff denied him access to care, as well as his requests for a cane and wheelchair.
After he was allowed to see a doctor, the physician remarked that Choquette’s condition appeared so serious that he recommended following up with a specialist in Denver. The lawsuit, which was filed by Choquette’s estate – currently administered by his sister – says Canon City prison officials didn’t oblige.
Lawyers for the Choquette family claimed that the inmate’s death could have been prevented. They allege that the for-profit prison where Choquette was being held refused to help him receive surgery as a cost-cutting measure, writing off the procedure as “elective” until it could be considered an immediate and life-threatening emergency.
“We thought that if we get him some help, he could still walk with a prosthetic,” explained lawyer Anna Holland Edwards. “Instead, they played financial games, pretending that the surgery was elective. They pretended it wasn’t an emergency until finally it became an emergency. And because of their recklessness, Dennis Choquette died from that emergency.”
The facility where Choquette died is administered by the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA.
The CCA, as well as its other private prison counterparts, have come under fire in recent years for endangering inmates and staff alike by disregarding safety in favor of bolstering revenues.
According to attorney John Holland, “Dennis had a history of diabetes. He had Charcot Syndrome, which is a terrible diabetic problem where basically your bones can disintegrate. He’d had Charcot in his right foot, and that had been successfully managed. He was still ambulatory. But he was developing it in his left foot, too.”
Holland charged that Choquette’s developing problem in his left foot had been discovered by corrections authorities during an intake medical screening, but had been withhold from him when he was sent to a private prison.