James Reed, of Factoryville, was an inmate at Scranton's Lackawanna County Prison in 2014 and brought a medical malpractice claim against the prison's private healthcare provider, Correctional Care Inc., and against the prison itself. Reed claims that he developed a very serious infection that required surgery because he was forced to clean his colostomy bag in his toilet.
The attorney for the prison facility asked the court to dismiss the action, explaining that the prison employees should not be liable for negligent medical care as long as they made the necessary notifications to the medical provider. Judge Karoline Mehalchick stated that the prison is not protected from liability if the plaintiff proves that they demonstrated deliberate indifference.
The prison next argued that Reed's suit was not brought within the statute of limitations because he had not followed the requirement that a documented grievance be filed during incarceration. His claim was determined to be sufficient to continue the litigation.
The plaintiff needed a colostomy bag to protect exposed internal organs following a major surgery. The cleaning process of the bag required a sterile surface, antiseptic, disinfectant etc. Normally, he would replace the bag roughly every three days; however, he claimed that the prison only allowed for a change every two weeks. As a result, he was forced to clean and change his bag in his cell, which was very unsanitary.
Case documents claim that Reed had been refused immediate treatment despite having an infection, rashes, fever, and bleeding. Upon release, he saw medical providers that diagnosed his infection and conducted painful surgery that should not have been necessary if not for his lack of prior care. The plaintiff is seeking compensatory damages for each claim of $150,000, as well as punitive damages.
Lackawanna County Prison's website describes a part of their duties as to provide “basic physical and medical healthcare” and to protect constitutional rights. This facility was originally built in the 1880's to accommodate 110 inmates. Following a major overhaul in 1999, the prison can now hold a maximum capacity of 1,200.
Entering 2014, there were over 1.5 million people incarcerated in the U.S. There are increasingly more prisoners over the age of 55. The CDC report shows that from 1981 to 2013 the number of prisoners over the age of 55 increased by over 90%. Inmates have a significantly higher rate of mental illness, chronic health conditions, and disease. More correctional facilities have begun contracting their medical care out to private companies in order to lower costs, such as benefits, and potentially lower medical liability. Over the last twenty years, there have been many examples within the correctional system where inmates were not receiving a level of healthcare that meets constitutional standards.