A 32-year-old man entered a New Orleans jail last October after he allegedly failed to pay the court fees resulting from a 2015 conviction on a charge of misdemeanor simple marijuana possession.
The African-American man, identified as Narada Mealey, left the lockup 48 hours later, in a coma and suffering from shock, blood sepsis and cardiac arrest. He never regained consciousness and died five days later at a local hospital.
Just recently, a complaint was filed in federal U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana by the relatives of Mealey, who alleged jail deputies and health staffers ignored his repeated cries for help and failed to monitor his vital signs in violation of their own protocols.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified financial damages, said Mealey, during his two days at the facility, started to complain of abdominal pain, sickness, and nausea. His condition reportedly deteriorated when he started to repeatedly throw up and told officials at the facility that he was in severe pain.
At the time of his arrest, the 32-year-old was addicted to opioids and was suffering from chronic ulcer problems, about which he told a jail staff nurse, the lawsuit stated.
The protocol at the facility for people dealing with heroin addiction requires the staff to check inmates’ vitals at least every eight hours. But, according to the complaints, health staffers at the Orleans Parish facility failed do so and attempted to tackle Mealey’s condition by giving him anti-nausea medications, acetaminophen and an antidiarrheal medication.
At one point, Mealey, who was apparently never given a bed, reportedly “made several calls to his family members, reporting to them that he was in tremendous pain, felt like he was going to die, and that medical personnel at the jail were refusing to provide him care.”
Though his family members went to the jail and asked the staff to give him medical attention, the pleas went unheeded and staff members allegedly only gave him more anti-nausea drugs.
After just two days, at about 2 p.m. on October 29, Mealey collapsed on the floor and began throwing up violently. He was then allegedly taken to the jail’s medical unit, where he finally collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Mealey was then transported to University Medical Center, where doctors diagnosed him with a perforated gastric ulcer that was bleeding out.
Mealey, who left behind four children, died on Nov. 2, 2017.
“He was begging for help and in excruciating pain for two days, and they just didn’t do anything for him,” said civil-rights attorney Stephen Haedicke, who is representing the victim’s family. “He was vomiting, he was in horrible pain, he collapsed on the floor—and they didn’t take him to the hospital.”
The defendants named in the suit include Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, several jail deputies, health-care workers and also jail’s health contractor, Correct Care Solutions, a Nashville-based company.
“He shouldn’t have died like that,” said Haedicke. “We don’t know everything about what happened yet, but what’s clear is that the jail medical staff were not following protocols that they have for these situations.”
However, the lawsuit further stated Mealey’s case wasn’t an isolated incident. Six other inmates have also died at Orleans Parish Prison during 2017, according to The New Orleans Advocate.
“There’s still a huge laundry list of problems, from bad medical care to excessive violence. “It’s a terrible danger to people in New Orleans and for people who are sent there,” said Haedicke.
Most of the inmate deaths at the facility were reportedly caused by the negligence of health care providers, who provided substandard service due to staffing shortages and shoddy policies.
Just last month, the sister of inmate Dennis Edwards filed a lawsuit against the jail alleging the staff failed to send him to the hospital in time to prevent his death from hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, the findings of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2009 and 2012 revealed the facility was perpetrating “serious constitutional violations,” including “shockingly high rates of serious prisoner-on-prisoner violence and officer misconduct” and staffers who are “deliberately indifferent to prisoners with serious medical and mental-health needs.”
As of yet, the sheriff office’s attorney hasn’t responded to the allegations.
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