The Degree of Civilization in a Society

by Crane-Station

On March 17, 2013, Christopher Lopez took his last breath at 9:10 AM, stripped and shackled, face down on a cement floor, while his jailers joked and made chit-chat. During Mr.Lopez’s videotaped death, which began at 3:30 AM, guards subjected him to a forceful ‘cell extraction’ even though he was unresponsive. When they placed the spit hood over his head and shackled him in the disciplinary chair, he slumped to one side and had a seizure. Without performing any assessment whatsoever, they returned Mr. Lopez to his cell, placed him face down on the cement next to the toilet, and injected him with two psychotropic drugs.

“Is it lunch already?” the guard asks, followed by inaudible conversation.

“He could swallow his teeth, I don’t care…”

A guard proclaims, “He didn’t even piss on himself, so he’s not seizing.” “What’s he doing now?” a female supervisor asks. “Smells like he peed all over the place,” a man replies. “Is he still on the floor?” “Yeah.” “He likes it on the floor.” “I like him on the floor.” “Yeah, he likes it alright when he’s on the floor.” Laughter ensues. “Isn’t that terrible?”

While the staff makes fun of him, Mr. Lopez’s breathing changes to that of a fish out of water. When his breathing stops and he dies, a guard talks to his body from outside the cell door, saying to the window, “I can see you breathing.” She also tells the corpse to “Open your eyes,” and then she says, “Good.”

The only thing missing from Mr. Lopez’s horrible and lonely death is the pepper spray, but that was not really an oversight. He would have been pepper sprayed prior to the forceful extraction procedure, but the staff was short that day, the lawsuit describes:

“He actually wants to respond, but he can’t,” Gutierrez-Gonzalez told someone, then called out, “I understand you have some medical condition, but you have to work with me so I can help you.”

Gutierrez-Gonzalez then told Lopez if he didn’t cooperate, there would be a forced cell entrance, during which he would be pepper sprayed.
More than an hour after they noticed Lopez on the floor, a six-member team assembled to mount a forced cell entrance. Before going to the cell, they were told that because of a lack of personnel, gas wouldn’t be used.

The guards entered the cell dressed in riot gear and dragged him out. They told him to stop resisting, though he appeared limp.
They stripped him, then chained and cuffed him to a wheeled transport chair, and pulled a black spit mask over his head.”

Prior to Mr. Lopez’s death, he lived in solitary confinement for more than nine months, but since he suffered from schizophrenia, he could not act as his own advocate, speak up, file a grievance, or call his family to raise outside help.

.
“I went to Walmart this morning,” said one of the guards, as Mr. Lopez lay next to the toilet, dying.

Mr. Lopez’s situation is not unique.

In Michigan, mentally ill inmates at Huron Valley were “denied water and food, ‘hog tied’ naked for many hours, left to stand, sit, or lie naked in their own feces and urine, denied showers for days, and tasered,” according to witness letters to the ACLU of Michigan.

Who is in charge of health care for the mentally ill? One private contractor is Corizon. According to its website, Corizon is:

Clinically-focused. Patient-centered. Evidence-based.

As the correctional healthcare pioneer and leader for 35+ years, Corizon Health provides client partners with high quality healthcare and reentry services that will improve the health and safety of our patients, reduce recidivism and better the communities where we live and work.”

Corizon has landed a 100 million dollar contract in California,  with Fresno County jail, the latest contract in a long list. Corizon Health, “the nation’s leader in correctional healthcare solutions” invites us to browse the website to see their “Our people, practices and commitment to success.

Corizon has been sued 660 times for malpractice over the last half-decade. The ACLU adds that “As long as Corizon is motivated by its bottom line, there will always be a perverse incentive not to provide treatment. And Corizon is doing very well. The company makes $1.4 billion dollars a year off sick prisoners. Just last week, Corizon inked a new five-year, $1.2 billion contract with the state of Florida. This means that Corizon is now getting taxpayer money in 29 states. And they’re vying for more.”

Corizon is being investigated in Arizona, for taking taxpayer money designated to provide inmate healthcare and doing nothing or being so egregiously negligent that mentally ill inmates are dying.

New York City has contracted Corizon to provide health care for its inmates for more than a decade, previously under the name Prison Health Services, according to a report. In spite of a contract with New York City that pays $280 million for medical care and a $128 million for administrative support, fifteen have died at Rikers Island jail including:

• A 36-year-old man with a severe seizure disorder who died two days after he was placed in solitary confinement and denied his medication. Witnesses said they heard him screaming for his medication.

• A 59-year-old drug addict who wasn’t properly assessed for a common side effect of methadone — constipation — and died of complications from an infected bowel.

• A 32-year-old man who died of a bacterial infection in his stomach and intestines after days of bloody stools. He received treatment only after fellow inmates staged a protest.

• A 20-year-old man who died after an artery in his heart ruptured. A fellow inmate said that he heard the man complain countless times over two days of chest pains and difficulty breathing

.
In Florida, where Darren Rainey was scalded to death at the hands of guards at Dade CI, George Mallinckrodt, a psychotherapist who was working for Corizon, blew the whistle on the behalf of Mr. Rainey and others. At our site, he commented:

I’m George Mallinckrodt, the only former staffer at Dade CI to come forward publicly about the egregious behavior of guards in the psych unit called the Transitional Care Unit. As a result of the stories broken by the Miami Herald’s Julie Brown, it is comforting to know I’m not alone anymore in bringing the abuse, beating, torture, and murder of inmates to the attention of the public. Almost two years ago, after I answered my phone with a typical “Hello,” my former coworker blurted out, “They killed him!” Ever since, I’ve been trying to get people to pay attention to the murder of Darren Rainey. I contacted the FDLE, FBI, Miami Metro Homicide, and the ME’s office to no avail. When Julie broke the story Sunday, May 18, 2014, there was no doubt in my mind that I would come forward. I may not have been able to change much when I was working in prison, but now it appears I have been more successful on the outside. I’ve got to give the inmate, Harold Hempstead, a massive amount of credit in coming forward as he did. As we all know now, really bad things happen to men in prison.

The complaint I lodged with the Dept. of Justice in DC may now receive the attention it deserves. No doubt one of thousands of complaints filed every year, perhaps as a result of recent publicity, it may move up a bit in the line. Of course, I’d like to see it go straight to the top.

We need a change of heart in this country. When Russian Novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” he aptly described the treatment of America’s incarcerated mentally ill in tandem with complete disregard for the Eighth Amendment and basic human decency.

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37 Responses to The Degree of Civilization in a Society

  1. sonniq says:

    I commented on this last week and I keep coming back to it. I’ve posted it at my own site at “My Name is Jamie. Life in prison” mynameisjamie.net. I’ve reposted at the page I have at facebook as well. I’ve always known about Corizon and the other rotten corporations. Jamie has epilepsy. When he has a seizure they just let him suffer through it. Sometimes he gets his medications, sometimes he doesn’t. One time he woke to find himself shackled – for the officers protection, of course. I watched this entire video biting on my fist, horrified at the blasé callousness of the human beings observing it. Mr. Lopez may or may not have committed a crime worthy of being put in solitary but NO ONE deserves to die like this!

  2. owl says:

    i’ve kept this tab open for several days, and i still don’t have a concise, meaningful comment. besides shock, i can only mention that Mr. Lopez has / had a mother.
    how horrible for her that these hardened, depraved, vicious keepers of human misery impose such torture upon him, and callously chat while going through the motions of resuscitation.
    they are no different than the heartless and sick individuals whom torture the animals they bring to slaughter.

  3. sadlyyes says:

    Crane
    Crane-Station says:

    October 28, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    What a small world! Now that you say that, I think I recall it. It does make for a very interesting upbringing, and the older I get, the more I admire my father, and his interesting profession.

    always remember,they saw the worst of the worst cases(my dad was also med-examiner Quincy)It made them very practical,and pragmatic peeps!,dad always said I was so emotional,however out of 4 kids,1 lawyer,1 pathologist,that he said i was the smartest…emotion,and pragmatism,should both be elements of problem solving imo

  4. sadlyyes says:

    good morning in Police State USA.i posted a comment yesterday,which disappeared.

    • That sucks! I am sorry, I will tell Fred to check into that.

      • sadlyyes says:

        it was on “blade killer” about his hollow point bullets meant to kill.I live in Tn.now idiot capitol of usa.Anyway local fishwrap rightwing tripe,banned me from commenting on no kill animal shelters which I have been raising awareness,of in our area.to my complete surprise ,in less than a year,it is very popular idea.The paper wrote an Editorial calling me Utopian,i shitteth you not.But the tide is turning my way.
        Let me suffer the slings and arrows of their petty righting hate…peeps are waking up.,When I called editor,i called him a fascist for deleting my comments.But he has messed up,my omments on other sites too.Guess a good letter from my lawyer shall fix this…..keep on truckin

        • sonniq says:

          They try to keep the truth from being told. Dumbing down America. But the truth does get out although we are often signing to the choir. But we have to ” keep on truckin’ ” as you so aptly said.

  5. MDX says:

    That is how either a feudal or fascist {arguably a melding of feudalism and corporations} state operates – the peons sole reason for existence is to enrich the lives of the “titled”.

    • sadlyyes says:

      or the OLD plantation.hint ,hint,we are not the planters.Life in usa,has completely changed from postWW2,my father fought in.Today on google is Jonas Saulks 100th birthday.He was a medical school colleague of my dad.the 2 of them would be revolted by the pay to play health care in this country now.As the polio vaccine he invented was given for free.universe help us all!

      • Cool story. My father, a 91-year-old retired pathologist says that Polio was the most fearful issue in medicine prior to Salk. After the vaccine, he said there were hallways at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, with dozens of iron lungs that were no longer in use.

  6. girlp says:

    There seems to be plenty of fear and hatered agianst the mentally ill, they are feared,taken advantage of, made fun of and tortured and nothing is done other than maybe a couple of guards fired. If you are helpless and vulnerable in prision may God help you. Privatization of prision and services provided should not exist in certian areas of government many times there is a conflict of interest; these corporations control legislation and only care about their bottom line not people.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      There’s a special place in hell for those who abuse the mentally ill or mentally challenged.

    • sonniq says:

      The problem is that the effect, for many people locked up in extreme deprivation of human contact become mentally ill, or it brings out that condition lurking in the shadows. The callousness they treated him with, regardless of why he was there, shows that they, too, have mental health issues.

      • Some people who go into corrections, are motivated by a genuine desire to be of service to others.

        Others, not so much.

        • sonniq says:

          I don’t think they are motivated by a desire to help. By money maybe because many prisons are in areas where good jobs are hard to find. I don’t think that most people apply for a job at a prison with the intention to hurt people. The job does have the ability to bring out the worst in people. I believe, over time a degree of callousness sets in and they get immune to what they see on a daily basis. That is what is showing in this video. If it was happening to someone they knew and was witnessed outside of a prison, 911 would have been called during the first minute of this video. The impact of dealing with this on a daily basis must have dire consequences in their own lives as they must surely examine their part in the death of this man

  7. sonniq says:

    This makes me so angry I can’t find the words. All aspects of mass incarceration. See http://www.mynameisjamie.net

    • I’ll be honest, I actually was unable to watch the video. Thank you so much for the link, very much appreciated. I think the public has a right to know about all aspects of mass incarceration. It has nothing to do with correction or rehabilitation.

      Very much appreciate the read and comment, thank you so much.

      • sonniq says:

        Thank you for going to the website I mentioned. I hope you return and continue reading. The effort I have put into this man to keep his sanity is important. I have two other men I write to on death row. Both have been able to cope and find ways to deal with the deprivation. They are the fortunate ones. Both will never get out and because of being black and Hispanic they are treated worse than others.

  8. Sophia33 says:

    I can’t take it! “Man’s inhumanity to man”!

    This is torture and cruelty. Makes me think of the George Michael song, “Praying for Time”.

    “Praying For Time”

    These are the days of the open hand
    They will not be the last
    Look around now
    These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

    This is the year of the hungry man
    Whose place is in the past
    Hand in hand with ignorance
    And legitimate excuses

    The rich declare themselves poor
    And most of us are not sure
    If we have too much
    But we’ll take our chances
    Because god’s stopped keeping score
    I guess somewhere along the way
    He must have let us alt out to play
    Turned his back and all god’s children
    Crept out the back door

    And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
    Hanging on to hope
    When there is no hope to speak of
    And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
    Well maybe we should all be praying for time

    These are the days of the empty hand
    Oh you hold on to what you can
    And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

    This is the year of the guilty man
    Your television takes a stand
    And you find that what was over there is over here

    So you scream from behind your door
    Say “what’s mine is mine and not yours”
    I may have too much but i’ll take my chances
    Because god’s stopped keeping score
    And you cling to the things they sold you
    Did you cover your eyes when they told you

    That he can’t come back
    Beacuse he has no children to come back for

    It’s hard to love there’s so much to hate
    Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
    And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
    So maybe we should all be praying for time

  9. MDX says:

    A female friend of mine from years back has a boy freind who got put in Lorton for selling drugs. When he got out, he was in a half-way house wherein he had to work at an old folks home that was a tax payer funded private entity.

    Anyhow, he used the little money he earned to buy food for these old people because the home was scrimping on food in order to make a profit.

    What these people who think the profit motive is better than anything fail to realize is that one must engage in critical thinking and ask these very simple questions:

    What is the desired function of the entity?

    Is the function amenable to making a profit?

    A fine example is criminal justice.

    The desired function is to reduce the crime rate.

    The most profitable market for private prisons is more criminals, thus rendering them in polar opposition to the desired function.

    When I was a child, I thought this guy with a gun was made up as a form of humor. Little did I know that a huge number of Americans did and do think like him:

    • You nailed it. Mass incarceration of the mentally ill is pure profit. I witnessed horrendous indifference and meanness directed to the mentally ill, and the guards got away with it because they could.

      Thank you for the delightful video, much appreciated!

      “You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca Cola company.”

      • MDX says:

        One of the big problem in the USA is that, during WW2, the right wing, who had supported Hitler during the 1930s, was able to not suffer that fate of the European right wing, who either actively supported or went along with the fascist occupiers, while the left were active in the resistance. Therefore, the right, in the USA, was able to crawl out of their hole, support Hollywood warriors like Wayne and Reagan, yell the “commies are everywhere”, and the rest is history. In Europe, the right had no such luck because they were seen for what they are – enablers or followers of a system that deems the common man an expendable commodity to be exploited by the rich or the ubermensch.

        It was a sad day in history to see McGovern pilloried as weak and Reagan touted as strong.

        The only bullets Reagan saw were in some sort of Hollywood mock up airplane where he takes a “faux round” bites his fake blood pill, and slumps over a hero for the nation.

        McGovern, on the other hand, was a B-24 pilot who, sadly, saw all too well what flack really does to men.

        And that is the reality of our right wing paradise – fake heroes living Hollywood History.

  10. Two sides to a story says:

    Pure evil. The USA is so broken that I wonder if we’ll ever heal again.

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