(KMOV) –- A north St. Louis family says their 32-year-old brother should not have died in jail, and that his death could have been prevented.
The family, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the city and the jail’s medical service provider.
The victim, Courtland Lucas, wound up in jail because of a probation violation on a drug charge. Five days after being put in the St. Louis Justice Center downtown, Lucas was dead.
Landa Poke, Lucas’ sister, says Lucas’ death didn’t have to happen.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Poke’s behalf, alleging that Lucas did not receive the screening, medication or help he was entitled to.
John Chasnoff of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri says that Lucas went to jail with a pacemaker and medication he needed for a heart condition. Chasnoff says he needed the medicine every day, but was not receiving it.
“I think that the actions – the neglect that happened in the prison – was a direct cause of his death,” says Chasnoff.
The ACLU claims this case points to a bigger problem with city-contracted Correctional Medical Services.
“When we dug into the issue further and specifically looked at the St. Louis jails, we saw a systemic lack of medical care,” Chasnoff says.
In 2007, two cases were filed against the Correctional Medical Services.
That April, Lavonda Kimble died of a severe asthma attack while jailed for failure to appear in court for traffic tickets.
A fire department report on her death called the emergency medical care she got from CMS “substandard at best.”
That July, David Kutrip, a disabled man, sued after he says his crutches were confiscated, and a hard fall in the medium-security jail shower left him deaf.
Correctional Medical Services has not seen the most recent lawsuit and say they can’t comment on it.
However, CMS says the information sent to News 4 by the ACLU contains significant inaccuracies about the facts, which will be addressed in court.
CMS says the St. Louis City Justice Center has an “experienced and well-trained nursing staff on duty at all times – as well as available physicians.”
Poke says she just wants to see justice served.
St. Louis City’s response to the lawsuit:
As of this afternoon, the City had not yet seen a copy of the ACLU's lawsuit and is unable to comment on the allegations made. While the City expresses its sorrow to Mr. Lucas' family, the City intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit and does not believe jail officials were responsible for Mr. Lucas' death. – Kara Bowlin, St. Louis City
Statement from Correctional Medical Services:
We have not seen a copy of the ACLU's lawsuit yet and are unable to comment on the allegations it may include. Further, patient confidentiality restrictions prevent us from commenting on a specific inmate patient's medical condition or describing the care that a patient received while incarcerated. We can state that the press release distributed to media by the ACLU contains significant inaccuracies about the facts underlying this matter. We will address those inaccuracies in the course of the legal process.
In addition, you should know that the St. Louis City Justice Center has an experienced and well-trained nursing staff on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, physicians are present at the Center or on call at all times. Those dedicated clinical professionals work as a team to address the health care needs of the inmate patients on a daily basis. The Justice Center has been recognized for the quality of its healthcare program by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care - a standard setting body dedicated to health care in the nation's prisons and jails.