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And the DUI charge that ultimately led him to be locked up in Jefferson County jail? In early 2011, he went out one night to celebrate winning a big construction bid. He gave his car keys to a designated driver, but at some point in the revelry he wound up with the keys again. A cop pulled him over a block from the house in Lakewood where he and Jen were living at the time. As a multiple DUI offender, in January 2012 he was sentenced to Jefferson County's one-year Inmate/Outmate Program. He spent a couple months in jail before getting out as part of a supervised release program, and he applied for a new driver's license so he could work. While a loophole in the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles allowed that license to be approved, his case manager didn't like it: As part of the release program, he wasn't supposed to be driving. So in July Ken was sent back to jail, to spend the rest of his sentence, minus good-conduct time, behind bars.

Which is why he was in the kitchen of the Jefferson County jail on September 17, 2012, the room spinning around him — and the spinning continued to get worse. Finally, after the lunch shift was over, a correctional worker took Ken to the medical clinic in the jail's basement. The facility was staffed around the clock by a half-dozen nurses and a charge nurse; there was also a physician's assistant there during the day and a doctor who came in several times a week. All of them worked for Correctional Healthcare Companies (CHC), the Greenwood Village-based company that oversees medical care for the 1,200 to 1,300 inmates typically housed in the jail — as well as facilities in many other states.

Like many jails and prisons around the country, Jefferson County's has turned to the private sector to help keep down health-care costs for inmate populations that are both growing and aging: According to the ACLU, the number of inmates 55 or older has increased by 1,300 percent since the 1980s. "They have been providing medical care [at the jail] since 2003, and we have been pleased with their work during the entire ten-year relationship," says Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Techmeyer of CHC, which is currently paid $4,274,000 a year by the county for its services. (Prior to contracting with CHC, Jefferson County used Prison Health Services, the country's largest correctional medical company; before that, the county ran the jail's medical clinic itself.)

Ken McGill told his wife he was having a stroke; she didn’t hear from him again for three days.
Anthony Camera
Ken McGill told his wife he was having a stroke; she didn’t hear from him again for three days.
Attorney Anna Holland Edwards says that nothing her client had done “justified being treated as though his life didn’t matter.”
Anthony Camera
Attorney Anna Holland Edwards says that nothing her client had done “justified being treated as though his life didn’t matter.”

When he went to the clinic that afternoon, one of the CHC nurses looked Ken over and told him the doctor would see him when he visited the jail the next day. Ken was likely just dehydrated, she told him, and she sent him back to his unit with instructions to drink water and get some rest. Ken did as he was told, taking a nap on his bunk, but when he awoke a few hours later, the dizziness was worse and he had a horrible headache that was spreading down his neck. Walking down the stairs in his unit, Ken had to hold the railing with both hands — and on the bottom step, he slipped and fell.

The deputy on duty took him back to the medical clinic in a wheelchair. This time, Ken saw the physician's assistant, who told him the culprit was likely a migraine accompanied by vertigo. Ken was given medicine for his headache and the dizziness, then returned to his unit. While he was sitting in the common area a little after 7 p.m., everything went from bad to worse. "That's when my body started changing," says Ken. "I could feel my face starting to droop. I was able to control my right side a lot less than my left side."

By now, it was clear to others that something was wrong. Two of Ken's friends in the unit, Vance Goetz and Gilbert Renteria, approached and asked if he was okay. "I think I am having a stroke," Ken told them, slurring his words. The realization came to him like puzzle pieces clicking into place. "My body was screaming at me, 'You are having a stroke!'" he remembers.

Looking at him, both Goetz and Renteria agreed. "I worked as a dialysis tech," says Renteria. "I knew the signs and symptoms of heart attacks and stroke. Everyone knows one side of your body goes limp, and you notice the speech changing."

"I knew something was wrong," agrees Goetz. "I am not a doctor, but you know. And when he stood up and started walking with one leg dragging, I really knew it."

But when Renteria tried to alert the deputies, he was told to wait for the nurse, who would be by soon to hand out meds for the evening. In the meantime, Ken was deteriorating. Waves of extreme dizziness and pain began washing over him, and after each one, his body seemed slightly less functional than before. His right arm began curling in on itself. He couldn't focus on what was going on around him in the common area; his mind couldn't process what was happening in the Broncos game on the TV. And the right side of his face was numb. "It felt like my face was hanging off of my skull," he says.

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17 comments
eslyter
eslyter

I work in prison health care in both long term and short term settings.  Based on the information presented, I could kind of understand not being sent out after the first visit (although I'm fairly certain even I, as an NA, would have checked for stroke symptoms during that assessment).  But there's no excuse for not getting that man out during the next assessments.  Every nurse I work with would have done a better job than those in this story.  Yes, working in a prison, it can be difficult to tell whether or not someone is expressing legitimate symptoms.  I have met many stroke patients and many stroke fakers.  I have also met my share of medical and security staff that are inappropriately ignorant and even aggressive towards inmate patients.  Private prison healthcare is no easy task, but I know that if this had occurred on the yard I work, it simply would not have happened this way.

bookbabe
bookbabe

Shame on everyone involved. In my four years working on an inpatient psychiatric unit, I worked with many nurses and had a fair amount of contact with police who were bringing in, and on occasion remaining on the premises to guard, patients. I met many great police officers and worked with some great nurses, but I have also seen and worked with some who should not be doing those jobs, period. I have seen mentally ill patients receive delayed medical attention: their complaints were dismissed and ignored because they were "psych". I've no doubt this is common in the prison population as well - they're crazy, they're criminals, so they're looked at as malingerers, as well. Perhaps it's burn-out; maybe it's just a basically callous and cruel character. Whichever the case, these officers and medical staff - particularly the medical staff - failed egregiously to do their jobs. I hope this man can not only sue the institution, but can civilly sue the individual employees as well. Name 'em and shame 'em. I sure hope he wins.

melekalikimaka
melekalikimaka

What do you expect from a country that puts the highest percentage of its citizens in jail than any other country in the world? In order to house that many people you need private corporate prisons with private corporate healthcare thus getting this result. Just like the old mental asylums we have guards and healthcare workers alike thinking all these people are animals and don't deserve any compassion and deserve every bit of abuse the workers can dish out. The bottom line is what's most important here, there are shareholders to answer to so the prisoners are just income, paid by us taxpayers, and nothing else.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

With Chambers GONE in Arapahoe, Jeffco wants to regain it's title as the as Colorado's MOST crooked, FUCKED UP, county ! A title they proudly held til Chambers was furloughed from hell !

wrobert.weller
wrobert.weller

This represents our entire law enforcement system. They cannot even deal with a prisoner who suffered a stroke, let alone stop two Boston bombers when tipped by the Russians. Salazar let the Jeffco deputies off in the Columbine case. Ebel gets let out four years early. A warning from Holmes' psychiatrist results in no action. The Virginia tech killer had given many warnings. God forbid you are a law-abiding person, though.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editor

i'd like to publish some of these comments in our print edition, ideally with the author's full name. if that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

nlday
nlday

another clear example of the privitazation of government duties to profit driven corporations.   thank you WALL STREET, and the system of capitalism that puts MONEY before people.!!!   what these people endured, for the 'crime' of actually not hurting anyone other than themselves, is abominable.   classic duty staff on the jail payroll, with their own ignorance and lack of training too! 

gerneblanston
gerneblanston

" The strapping, six-foot-three 44-year-old had played competitive soccer for more than twenty years and liked to ski moguls....." AND DRINK & DRIVE!! Multiple DUI's...I've got no sympathy for this repeat offender!

Randy144
Randy144

How obvious is this story.

Any resident of Jefferson County with any foresight at all knew that the Jail expansion would turn out like this. Expand the Jail facilities to handle more prisoners. The expenses go up, the profit for Jefferson County goes up. An obvious fiasco created by Jeffderson County waiting for this type of scenario.

They clearly denied this man the most basic of medical attention. A 4th grader knows the signs of a stroke, and they cannot give this man an aspirin or powdered aspirin under his tongue and get him to a Hospital.

This is unforgivable, and the Jail and the Medical Staff should be sued and should lose in Court.

But will they will ever get to Court?

They probably have no liability for this debacle. They can deny this man the most basic of human rights in a Jail in America, and they will end up spending money on Attorneys, and keeping this out of Court for years.

I ask only one thing. Put me on this Jury.  Please.  I would award him Millions for the injustice alone.

Incompetence in Jefferson County. Nothing new.

Blatant incompetence in Jefferson County.  Nothing new.


What a sad, predictable, and tragic story of incompetence and a true lack of humanity by these people in Jefferson County.

Shame on them all. 

I do admire the courage of the Doctor, speaking up and telling the truth. There are brave people out there. He should be proud of his honesty.


Randy Brown


eslyter
eslyter

@melekalikimaka In my experience working prison healthcare, it is unfortunate that the state can't afford to support its own medical programs.  And it is true that there are so many people with physical and mental conditions that make them unfit for a prison setting.  It is also true that there medical and security staff that lack compassion and understanding towards inmates.  But you should know that there are also many wonderful members of nursing and security staffs.  Nurses and assistants who bust their assess twelve hours a day to make sure that their patients get the best medical care that they can provide them.  It is hard work that not many people in the medical profession are willing to do or are capable of doing.  You work in understaffed facilities with sometimes very dangerous patients.  Sometimes they fake illnesses to get special treatment, injure themselves to score drugs, or give you nothing but abuse and disrespect when you're trying to save their lives.  But I and the people I work with keep going back every day because we know that for every person taking advantage of the system is a person who really needs help.  Don't forget about the human elements in this complex, difficult, and dark system.

Randy144
Randy144

@gerneblanston  

 drunk driving charge from 1992 doesn't deserve a life of semi-paralysis. Not in a civilized society.

gerneblanston
gerneblanston

@Randy144 @gerneblanston I know you're not saying he was in jail when this happened from DUI in 1992...he was in jail when this happened because the previous DUI's and punishments were not enough to deter this habitual offender from doing it AGAIN. Maybe a higher power is sending him and all others a message. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time and all othert consequences that come with it. I only feel some sympathy for his family because he has chosen to put them through this. It is ultimately his fault!

gerneblanston
gerneblanston

@wrobert.weller @gerneblanston If you don't like the penal health care system, then stay out of the penal health care system. It's as simple as that. The fact that he is a repeat offender means he did not learn anthing from the previous times he chose to break the law. I have the right to be safe when driving the roadways of Colorado. This jerk chose to endanger the lives of the law abiding citizens. Lucky for us he didn't hurt anyone(multiple times). He should have made better choices. Now he has to suffer the consequences. The penal system should be a deterrant to crime and having crappy health care is a good start.

jnancedesign
jnancedesign

@gerneblanston @Randy144 "He gave his car keys to a designated driver, but at some point in the revelry he wound up with the keys again."

What I want to know is who the douche bag designated driver was who gave him his car keys back!?

Seeing as how this particular DUI happened a mere 21 years after his 1992 incident I wouldn't call it habitual.  I would call this instance more a failure to see that a chosen designated driver clearly had little to no responsibility.

I worked with Ken a year and a half straight side by side in very close quarters and have spent, in some cases, days and weeks in a row together.  We are best friends to this day.  He was very open to me about his past from the very beginning.  However the only things I have seen in him is his honesty, passion for his work and love for his friends and family.

All that to say, the article is about an inept health care system within correctional institutions not Ken's past.

Jon Nance

EdisaurusRex
EdisaurusRex

@gerneblanston @wrobert.weller Perhaps he should have plea bargained his DUI to something less serious in your view, like Manslaughter.



 
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