For her, one of the most compelling pieces of evidence came from a suggestion by Ken: He wondered if the jail might still have the recording of his September 17 phone conversation with his wife. The recording, which the attorney obtained from the sheriff's office, was a bombshell. "We have an actual tape at 8:30 p.m. of him slurring his words, complaining of right-sided weakness, telling people he thought he had a stroke," she says. "Ken did exactly what one should do: He brought his earliest symptoms to medical staff in the jail. If he had not been prevented by his jailers and their private care system from getting the emergency care he knew he needed and his co-inmates knew he needed, he would have been able to be taken to any emergency room and be treated for this obvious life-threatening emergency and would not be nearly as disabled as he is today, if at all."

But Techmeyer says the deputies at the jail did everything they could to address Ken's needs. "I don't know really what else we could do from the deputies' standpoint to make sure he was provided medical care," says Techmeyer. "We were responsive to his requests for medical care and sent him down for evaluation." And while Jeffco is legally responsible for the care Ken received, the nurses and doctors worked for CHC, he notes, adding, "I don't think it's fair for me to comment on their actions and how they arrived at their evaluations."

CHC also appears reluctant to comment. The company did not respond to multiple messages, including those left with its in-house corporate legal department, which takes "a proactive approach to litigation and risk management to reduce our clients' exposure to liability," according to the CHC website.

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.”

This isn't the first time that CHC, which manages the health care of more than 70,000 inmates in 27 states, has faced complaints. In 2008, a Department of Justice investigation of the Oklahoma County Jail in Oklahoma found that "detainees' serious medical needs are not adequately met" by the jail's medical program, which was being run by Correctional Healthcare Management, a CHC subsidiary. In particular, the report highlighted the "unconscionable" instance of a female detainee forced to remain seated in a wheelchair and handcuffed to a handrail while giving birth to a three-month-premature baby that was later pronounced dead. Lawsuits against the company have repeatedly captured headlines; the stories describe multiple inmate deaths and detail how one prisoner had to have several parts of his limbs removed because of an untreated septic condition. In Illinois, more than a million dollars has reportedly been paid out since 2010 to settle lawsuits against Dr. Stephen Cullinan and his company, Health Professionals Limited, which was acquired by CHC in 2007. And here in Colorado, lawsuits have been filed against CHC and its subsidiaries over inmate care in Larimer, Pueblo, Mesa, El Paso and Teller counties.

Jefferson County has also been sued multiple times over CHC's services at its jail. According to Techmeyer, the amount the county has spent on these lawsuits should be addressed by CHC's in-house legal department.

Bradley Brockmann, executive director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University Medical School, notes that private companies like CHC, which are paid a lump sum up front for their services, have a profit incentive to keep inmate medical services as basic and cheap as possible. For example, according to its contract with Jefferson County, Correctional Healthcare Companies is responsible for covering the first $50,000 of all costs incurred by transferring an inmate to an offsite facility. That means sending Ken to a hospital, as he requested repeatedly in the midst of his stroke, would cost the company up to $50,000. "Giving contracts to the lowest bidder to provide the cheapest services might save some money to the correctional institution, but in the long term it's destroying people's lives," says Brockmann. "More transparency is desperately needed, with some accountability beyond the institution's bottom line. Any light that can be shined into these areas can be helpful."

Ken is trying to fight for that accountability and transparency. "Maybe the reason you are living is the Lord wants to use you to open their eyes," Mike, the former EMT turned inmate, told Ken a few months after his stroke. "They need a wake-up call in there."

Ken hopes his lawsuit will be that wake-up call. But even if he wins, a victory won't give him his life back. It won't stop the nightmares that plague him at night, the ones illuminated by the horrible blue light from his time in the SHU.

"I am just trying to find a switch to turn off that light," 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 topcommentereditor

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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