The Minnesota Department of Corrections has tentatively agreed to pay $375,000 to settle a wrongful death case of an inmate whose pleas for emergency care were repeatedly ignored by officers and medical staff at the Lino Lakes Correctional Facility in 2011.
In a separate settlement, Corizon Health Inc., agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to the family of the late inmate, Jerrell Hammond, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in St. Paul. At the time, Corizon was the for-profit health provider contracted by the department to provide medical care for more than 8,000 inmates in the state's prison system.
U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank is expected to approve the settlement in the coming weeks after a minor agreement is reached on what share of money should be paid to a juvenile in Hammond's family.
A department spokesperson said Tuesday that Commissioner Tom Roy declined to comment on what has been done since Hammond's death to ensure that proper emergency care services are provided for the state's inmates, citing that the case is not formally closed.
With this latest settlement, the department has now paid nearly $1.5 million since 2011 to settle medical maltreatment lawsuits filed on behalf of inmates who died or suffered critical injuries due to improper health care.
In this latest case, the department was confronted with having to explain why Hammond, 34, was denied emergency care by corrections officers who videotaped him begging for help in mid-February, 2011. Hammond died in his cell of pulmonary blood clots, an autopsy showed.
Hours before he was found dead, Hammond pleaded to a corrections officer, "Please don't let me die," according to the videotape. When an inmate is in distress and corrections officers are called to a cell, it is standard prison procedure for a member of the responding team to record the events and decisions made in the cell.
Prison records show that medical staff knew of Hammond's worsening breathing condition in the two weeks before his death, and that days before he died he was only prescribed two to three tablets of Tylenol a day and an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection. Two days before he died, Hammond was found passed out and he was placed in a segregation unit near the Health Services office where he actually ended up being less closely observed than before, according to prison records.
In the hours leading up to his death, Dr. Keith Krueger, the on-call doctor working for Corizon, declined to order that Hammond be transferred to a hospital emergency room, records show.
And, despite being empowered to make an emergency medical decision that could override the doctor's assessment, the prison's watch commander, Lt. Thomas Miller, did not call for an ambulance, records indicate.
Krueger's decision was consistent with Corizon's contract with the department, a so-called "risk-share plan" that enhanced the company's profits and kept department medical costs lower by rationing medical services, according to court filings by Robert Speeter, the attorney representing Valerie Hammond, the inmate's mother. She declined to comment on the settlement. Hammond was serving time for a drug conviction.
Despite submitting the lowest bid among three companies in 2013, Corizon did not receive a contract, ending a 15-year period where it provided care to Minnesota's inmates. Instead, the department chose Centurion Managed Care, another for-profit health care company owned by Centene Corp., based in St. Louis, Mo.