Disabled inmate alleges mistreatment, gets $400K settlement in lawsuit against private prison | Courts

A man detained for more than a year while awaiting trial won $405,000 in a recent civil settlement after claiming he suffered negligence and mistreatment in a private prison that made his disability more painful.

The inmate — now released — claims in the lawsuit that he spent months in debilitating pain at Jackson Parish Correctional Center, a facility managed by the Ruston-based LaSalle Management Company, after a fall at a local jail left him severely injured. Denied physical therapy, the inmate says he was often forced to drag himself across prison floors when guards deprived him of his wheelchair.

The settlement meeting included attorneys for LaSalle Management Company and two local sheriffs. A representative for LaSalle did not respond to a request for comment.

“It was a nightmare,” said Lane Carter, the former inmate. “It was from start to finish a really, really bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from…and I was living it, and couldn’t wake up.”

Carter was arrested in July 2017 in Winn Parish on one count of distribution of methamphetamine and one count of middle grade theft, his attorney said. Before his incarceration, he was a “healthy, hardworking 42-year-old,” according to the lawsuit. 

Carter first fell while showering at the local jail that August, leaving him badly injured, the lawsuit says. When he was transferred to the LaSalle-managed Jackson Parish Correctional Center several days later “without explanation,” he was limping. 

An EMT at the facility determined Carter to “be very tender on the left side of [his] body and…peeing blood,” the lawsuit says.

Carter claims he made several sick calls after the assessment but wasn’t seen by a nurse for more than a week. When the nurse finally responded, he was taken to Jackson Parish Hospital, where Carter learned he had “acute lumber and cervical radiculopathy, cervical strains and herniated disc…with neck pain…and sciatica — all trauma related.”

However, when Carter returned to the facility, he was given ibuprofen without other treatment, the lawsuit says. His condition continued to worsen to the point where he required a walker, and later a wheelchair, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit details months of requests for help with numerous delayed or nonexistent responses by officers.

In late September, Carter put in a sick call request, saying that “walking more than 25 feet is close to torture” — but according to the lawsuit, he didn’t see the nurse for three more days. In early October, he submitted a similar sick call, saying “I CAN’T WALK!” but when he saw the JCC physician several days later, the doctor refused to treat him, the lawsuit says.

In other cases, Carter claims JCC deputies made his day-to-day life unnecessarily difficult while he struggled to navigate the prison with his disability.

For instance, Carter was restricted from outside recreation time because there were no ramps to exit any of the dorms he was housed in, the lawsuit says. He also could not see visitors because the visitation area was inaccessible due to the far distance from his cell. And when Carter was scheduled for a court appearance, JCC staff would toss him in and out of the transport vehicle in a “trust fall” into the officer’s arms, but the officers “occasionally missed and dropped him,” the lawsuit says.

Another shower accident, roughly two months after his initial slip, complicated his condition and access to prison facilities, the lawsuit said. 

Told to take a five-minute shower using a plastic chair without his wheelchair, Carter lost his balance, slipped, fell and lost consciousness, the lawsuit says. He did not see a nurse for several days, and when he was finally transported to LSU Shreveport Medical Center to see a physician, neurosurgeon and neurologist, his situation had further deteriorated. 

His symptoms after the fall included “head pain, worsened neck pain, worsened/new back pain, visual change/blurry vision, numbness in his extremities, shoulder pain, and headaches,” the lawsuit says. Carter’s MRI reading showed “one of the lumbar disc bulges…indenting [his] nerve root in his spinal canal.” 

While Carter claims he was prescribed physical therapy and referred to outpatient clinics at the hospital, he was never given access to such treatment at JCC, according to the lawsuit.

In the meantime, the lawsuit says the deputy sheriffs would sometimes deprive Carter of his wheelchair for hours or days, restricting his access to toilets, showers and the prison phones. When he tried to walk, he would often fall. His mother purchased him a wheelchair for his use since he so regularly went without, but the guards would sometimes give his wheelchair to other inmates, the lawsuit says.

“For many activities, he just gave up, but had no choice but to find a way to get to the restroom, or into his bunk to sleep or rest,” the lawsuit says.

Without assistance, Carter would have “no choice but to crawl across the floor” to use the bathroom, the lawsuit says. “At times, he urinated or defecated on himself if he was unable to access the facilities.”

Carter took a plea deal to one count of distribution of methamphetamine in March 2019, according to his attorney.

When Carter was released, the lawsuit says he initially could not walk or stand and suffered from pain throughout his body, among other ailments. However, in a recent interview with The Advocate, Carter said he is now “ambulatory” after surgery to address some of his condition. 

In addition to accusing LaSalle, JCC and other parties of negligence, Carter’s lawsuit alleges the company failed to provide adequate accommodations for his disability in violation of his civil rights.

“It was a horrible, frightening experience,” Carter said in his recent interview. “I thought when I got out I could resume my normal life. Only I haven’t been able to resume my normal life completely.”

Carter’s attorneys, Casey Denson and Kenneth Bordes, said they hope their work can prevent inmates from suffering as Carter has.

“As we enter the year 2021 we are still seeing rampant corruption and incomprehensible numbers of civil rights violations within our Louisiana prisons,” Bordes said. “It is not working, and we must do better.”

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