Family, ACLU sues St. Louis, jail for wrongful death -

Family, ACLU sues St. Louis, jail for wrongful death

North St. Louis family members say their 32-year-old loved one's death could have been prevented.  He died in jail and now his family and the ACLU are suing the city and the jail's medical service provider.

News 4 has been digging into this case and some past cases that are similar.
A probation violation for a drug charge landed Courtland Lucas in the St. Louis Justice Center jail.  Just five days later -- he was dead.

"No one should have to go through this.  No one," Landa Poke says.

Poke's brother died alone inside the St. Louis jail downtown.

"We never got to speak to him so it's like he suffered alone," Poke says.

And she says Courtland Lucas's death could have been prevented.  The ACLU filed a lawsuit on her behalf, alleging that Lucas did not receive the screening, medication, or help to which he was entitled.

"He came in there with a pacemaker and medication that he needed for a heart condition," John Chasnoff, program director at the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, says.

Chasnoff says Lucas needed medicine everyday and was not receiving it from jail medical staff.

"I think that the actions -- the neglect that happened in the prison was a direct cause of his death," Chasnoff says.

The ACLU claims this case points to a bigger problem with city-contracted Correctional Medical Services (CMS).

"When we dug into the issue further and specifically looked at the St. Louis jails, we saw systemic lack of medical care," Chasnoff says.

In 2007 two cases were filed against CMS.  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 therefore cannot comment on it.  CMS also cannot comment on inmate medical conditions because of Hippa rules.  However, CMS says the information sent to us 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.

"I just want to see justice served," Poke says.

Full Statement from CMS:

"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."

Full Statement from the City of St. Louis:

"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."

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