Family of Chicago man held in custody and denied medical treatment will settle for $1 million. The current state of Illinois’ correctional facility healthcare system is an ongoing issue.
The family of Chicago resident Charles Edward Jones who passed away in custody in 2015 is set to receive $1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. The funds are to be paid by the city’s taxpayers.
56-year-old Jones died at the Grand Crossing District police station at 7040 S. Cottage Grove Avenue after officers allegedly refused to provide him with medical treatment. Jones had turned himself in for an outstanding warrant, according to court documents, and while in a holding cell, he began to feel pain in his feet, legs, and abdomen. He asked to be treated, but the officers ignored his requests.
The following morning, the man was discovered lifeless in his cell and the lawsuit indicated the failure to acknowledge his requests was “willful and wanton” on behalf of law enforcement and staff. Documents named ten police officers as defendants, as well as five detention aides. Ultimately, the family with receive $1 million from the city’s residents.
This certainly isn’t the first time Chicagoans in custody have been denied medical treatment. In 2010, the court of the Northern District of Illinois received a handwritten complaint from Don Lippert. A diabetic, he was behind bars as the Stateville Correctional Center where he alleged he wasn’t being given his daily insulin. In 2017, Lippert’s case began drawing the attention of others, and a class action was eventually filed on behalf of all Illinois’ prisoners.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois said the state’s “prison healthcare is grossly underfunded, badly managed, and deeply dysfunctional, resulting in needless, painful delays in treatment, mismanagement of common chronic conditions, and preventable deaths.” What’s more, there are high rates of illness among those behind bars and these individuals oftentimes lack health resources the system is unable to provide.
Lippert v. Baldwin argues that health care inside the Illinois Department of Corrections systematically puts inmates “at risk of pain, injury, and death…By failing to address fundamental needs, it alleges, Illinois is not meeting its constitutional mandate to protect against cruel and unusual punishment.”
“If someone has a broken arm and you let them suffer, that’s really no different than putting them on the rack and stretching them,” said Alan Mills, one of the case’s lead attorneys. “If conditions cause treatable pain and there is a failure to treat the causes of that pain, then that’s punishment for no good penological reason.”
Independent correctional healthcare experts conducted two separate evaluations of the medical and dental services available in Illinois prisons beginning in 2014. The first report, released in 2015, “described profound, systemic failures in the healthcare system of Illinois prisons causing needless suffering and preventable death.” The second report, made available three years later, in 2018 found “the system had not improved.” Many of the deaths, experts reported, were preventable. These individuals would have fared much better if there had been adequate resources available.
In late 2018, the State of Illinois agreed to a consent decree that requires vast changes to the prison healthcare system as well as a court-approved monitor to oversee these. It is still working with families, like Jones’, who lost loved ones while the review was still in process. They will receive $1 million to compensate for the lack of oversight.