An inmate's death from an untreated stroke has prompted a $1 million settlement and a government investigation.
The Tampa Bay Times reports on the circumstances surrounding Allen Daniel Hicks' last days:
Hicks, 51, was arrested in May 2012 after veering off Interstate 275 in Tampa. He was booked into jail without a medical screening, rambling incoherently and dragging his left leg.
More than a full day passed — during much of which Hicks lay on the floor of his cell or tried to crawl using only his right limbs — before he was taken to Tampa General Hospital and immediately diagnosed with a severe ischemic stroke. He slipped into a coma and died months later.
Police said they arrested Hicks because he failed to follow commands to get out of his vehicle.
Now the state's health department is launching an investigation into Hicks' death which, the Times reports, will largely focus on the actions of Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., a private company that has been contracted to take care of Hillsborough prisoners.
The announcement of the investigation comes the same month that Hicks' family agreed to a $1 million settlement with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Armor, according to WFLA.
"You should be able to get help from medical personnel and police officers and not be taken to jail, and we feel the highway patrol and EMT should have much better training on recognizing stroke victims," attorney Paul Rebein, who represented Hicks' family, said.
In previous comments to The Huffington Post, David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, said the government is constitutionally required to protect prisoners' health. “Prison officials have a duty under the Constitution to provide prisoners with adequate medical care," Fathi said in an email. "When they violate that duty, the results can be tragic.”
Companies looking out for their bottom lines have no business providing services to prisoners, according to Fathi.
"We believe that incarceration is a uniquely governmental function that should never be contracted out to private, for-profit corporations," Fathi said. "When you combine the profit motive with limited oversight and an unpopular, politically powerless group like prisoners, it’s a recipe for bad outcomes.”
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