MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Relatives of a man who died in an overcrowded Alabama prison said officials provided inadequate medical care before his death last month in a facility where the state health agency has confirmed a disease outbreak.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported Wednesday that the family of inmate Michael Eddings, 45, said workers at Ventress prison in southeast Alabama were “deliberately indifferent” to his condition.
Eddings, who was serving a life sentence for murder in Jefferson County, died Sept. 24 after a bacterial infection developed into meningitis, an infection involving the brain and spinal cord. A law firm released a statement on behalf of the man’s relatives, the newspaper reported.
State health department officials have said two other Ventress inmates also developed the illness and were hospitalized. Prison officials allowed the infection to spread by providing insufficient care, the family’s statement said.
“… This death was avoidable and measures must be put into place to prevent the Alabama Department of Corrections from allowing this to happen again,” said the statement.
The Department of Corrections said in a news release that Eddings was treated by health workers and transferred to the hospital where he died after being diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis. The department is managing the outbreak by measures that include testing, limiting movement and providing antibiotics to anyone who might be affected, it said.
“The control measures will provide long-term protection for both employees and staff,” said a statement from prison spokesman Bob Horton.
Workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health have been at Ventress since Monday screening inmates, workers and volunteers who might have come in contact with the infected prisoners, said Cindy Lesinger, the state’s immunization director. Besides the three confirmed cases, two suspected cases were detected, she said.
“They’re looking at every person who could have been in contact with any of those three people, and that may be expanded to the two other suspected cases,” said Leinger.
Test results may not be available before the end of the week to show whether others are infected, she said. The three infected inmates were all housed in the same dormitory, Lesinger said, but it’s unclear exactly how the illness spread.
While officials said an autopsy would be performed on Eddings, family attorney Matthew Bailey said Monday no examination had been performed. The family intends to pursue “justice for Mr. Eddings’ needless death” and asked for more information about what is going on at the prison, the statement said.
Located about 75 miles southeast of Montgomery, Ventress is a medium-security prison built to house 650 inmates, according to prison statistics. It was overcrowded with 1,277 men at the end of July, records show.
The department is grappling with lawsuits over medical and psychiatric treatment provided to inmates.
Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com
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