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What Happens When a Man Dies in a Texas Jail Due to Illness?

Submitted by jrlaw on Dec 23rd, 2009
The Dallas Morning News recently reported a tragic story involving a Texas inmatewho died in jail due to illness and lack of proper care.
Craig Morris, 45, was homeless and suffering from alcoholism. While the Dallas County Jail considered his pneumonia death in jail of “natural” causes, Morris’ family believe he died because of severe pneumonia that prison officials willfully ignored. He was serving a minor sentence for a misdemeanor crime involving consensual sex. The official charge was “public lewdness.”
His sister, Jeanette Rivett, stated that taking the sick man to Parkland Memorial Hospital would have been the appropriate action for the Dallas County Jail. The fact that Morris suffered a pneumonia death in jailwhile in custody proves that no one at the jail took note of his severe symptoms. Rivett commented that Morris “lived a horrible life but he was a human.” She believes it was a travesty of justice for a sick man serving a minor sentence to die helplessly in a cell.
According to the Sheriff’s Department investigation, during Morris’ last few hours, inmates were caring for him instead of prison officials. Some inmates even reported calling officials for help, but their pleas were ignored. A fellow inmate commented ironically on Morris’ critical condition. “If I could have called 911, I would have.” Even after Morris’ unconscious body was discovered, according to the report, two prison officials took no action.
The Parkland Memorial Hospital responsible for jail medical care, had no comment regarding the pneumonia death in jail. The sheriff’s lawyer also had no comment. According to the Parkland Memorial Hospital, the company claims to provide “high quality services and care in an ethic manner…in full compliance with federal and state laws and regulations.” Is this really so? 
Unfortunately for prisoners and their families, poor jailing conditions and a lack of proper jail infirmary care continues to be an issue for Dallas. In the year 2007, a federal order was made against the county to improve their jail medical care system. The federal government took note earlier this year that the infirmary care was still not responding to requested changes.
An error in judgment does not entitle any person to an undignified and unusually painful death. Prisoners who are serving a sentence have not been sentenced to death. Thus, these human beings are fully deserving of adequate medical treatment according to the law. If you know of a situation involving a Texas inmate that diesorknow of person who has been in a similar situation, then contact an attorney right away. This injured person may be entitled to receive compensation for personal injury or wrongful death. Call today.