James Neisler's lawyer says that his arrest for driving under the influence resulted in a life sentence -- to spending the rest of his days with only half a foot.
Neisler is suing Correctional Healthcare Companies, the private firm in charge of his care while he was at Arapahoe County jail, and a nurse practitioner, claiming that neglect caused him to lose five toes. And his is hardly the first allegation of its type against the firm, which isn't commenting about the allegations. Photos, details and two documents below.
According to attorney Anna Holland Edwards, Neisler is "a diabetic with peripheral neuropathy -- which means he can't really feel his feet. It's a serious medical condition, because an injury can go south so quickly."
That's what happened in June 2013, when Neisler was incarcerated at the Arapahoe County facility. "He had a blister that developed into rotted flesh even as he was being checked daily in a medical care clinic and while he was being watched by medical people."
His wasn't the sort of ailment that was easy to miss. A medical report cited in the lawsuit states: "Toe was black with thick flap of skin separated from toe on underside of toe. Smell was moderate."
Neisler maintains the odor was far worse than that. He sent multiple messages, known colloquially as KITEs, alerting authorities about his deteriorating condition, including one in which he pointed out that his cellmates were complaining about the stench from his foot.
In the end, all five toes on the foot had to be amputated.
Holland sees the case as significant "because it typifies a problem I'm seeing a lot in my work -- a refusal to send inmates out to receive a higher level of care or to acknowledge when they need it."
An image from the Correctional Healthcare Companies website.
Are these decisions being made to save money? "We have another case against" Correctional Healthcare Services "where we do think cost played a motivating role, but it's difficult for me to show that here," Holland acknowledges. Instead, she characterizes the care provided to Neisler as "business as usual: you come in every day, we give you a Band-Aid and move on.
"No one went out on a limb for this guy," she continues. "I don't know why caregivers would watch his toe turn black over over a month and not do anything about it. But I know Jim will tell you he felt they just didn't care."
Anna Holland Edwards.
In Holland's view, the incident is emblematic of many others. "I see this as a systemic problem," she allows. "We get tons of calls from prisoners with serious medical conditions who are in pain or are suffering in some way and they can't get anyone's attention. And Jim really advocated for himself. He filed KITE after KITE after KITE, and even then, it took thirty-plus days while the other inmates were smelling his toe rotting off. And there are lawsuits all over the country against this company."
One of the most prominent complaints against Correctional Healthcare Companies -- whose motto is "The right people...doing the right things...doing those things right" -- was filed last year in Oklahoma. We've also included that document, but here's an allegation synopsis courtesy of the Tulsa World newspaper:
One jail doctor allegedly refused to send a critically ill inmate to the hospital despite complaints that included black urine, one lawsuit claims. The detainee later died.
Another detainee was allegedly denied her medications after being jailed, resulting in seizures, which led to hospitalization and overmedication before she tried twice to hang herself, only to be revived each time.
Another detainee was put in the general population despite telling jail intake officials after a 2009 arrest that he was paranoid and schizophrenic. He was found hanging in a jail cell three days later, two days after telling jail officials via a kiosk that he needed to speak to someone about mental-health problems.
Look below to see a 7News report about Neisler's case, followed by his complaint and the one filed in Oklahoma.
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