by Jason Renard Walker, Deputy Minister of Labor, NABPP
Many courts have held that a serious medical need is “one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity of a doctor’s attention.” See Brown v. Johnson, 387 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Circuit, 2008).
Being denied medical care at the Clements Unit Maximum Security Prison in remote Amarillo, Texas, is so common that the average prisoner here can expect to be denied some form of medical care during his stay. False claims of prisoners being disruptive during the visit or in disagreement with negligent care are some of the excuses medical staff use to deny needed assistance.
In other cases, we are outright denied care and not seen at all, but the returned sick call request will state that we were seen and our problem addressed. This happened to me when I tried to seek follow-up care for a food poisoning event on May 6, 2017, that affected around 50 of us. King and Grantham denied me care.
In a returned sick call I submitted on May 9, 2017, LVN Tammy Williams replied, “Reply addressed today.” The received date was May 11, 2017. In a second sick call I wrote on May 22, 2017, explaining that I hadn’t been seen, during the visit with RN Maria Carrizales, I was told to drink sips of water.
Many prisoners have suffered permanent damage and have even died due to this systemic indifference.
Being denied medical care at the Clements Unit Maximum Security Prison in remote Amarillo, Texas, is so common that the average prisoner here can expect to be denied some form of medical care during his stay.
I’ve been writing articles on such things for several years and it wasn’t until June 21, 2017, that I would be a direct witness to denied medical care, comparable to the death of Christopher Woolverton, who was gassed, seen by medical staff, denied care, placed in a cell on the floor, only to be left to die in 2013.
Another prisoner suffers from denied medical care
A 30-something-year-old Black prisoner by the name of Anthony “Lil Ant” Chambers, 1340564, was in obvious medical distress, immobilized and cognitively impaired and denied medical care for a worsening serious medical need despite me protesting his condition to every officer who passed our cells during count time, walk through and cell checks.
His last 12 hours of being housed next door to me was done lying on the cold cell floor only wearing a pair of boxers and tennis shoes. On June 21, 2017, around 5:00 pm, Chambers knocked on the wall separating our cells. It sounded like he was trying to muffle out, “Help me,” so I knocked back only to received muffled cries.
Several minutes later I heard a loud thump, the noise sounding like he fell out. I then heard faint knocks on my wall and his cell door. I looked out of my cell window and saw a coax cable from his radio sticking out underneath his door, waving side to side, like a distress signal. At this point he was still cognitive and seeking help.
This is when I realized something was wrong. I contacted the pod officer, Courtney N. Jarman, around 5:45 p.m. She brushed off my concern and never once did she check on him or try to get him to respond during count time or any other time. Those cross counting – counting an adjacent pod, then ours, and vice versa – ignored him as well, despite me telling them something was wrong.
One after the other – Sgt. Dwayne Grantham, Sgt. Timothy King, Lt. Jeffrey W. Compson and Capt. Franklin Briant – simultaneously did their walk-throughs, which was all they did. I explained what was going on with Chambers, but they all showed little regard and never checked on him.
Prior to the death of a former Clements Unit prisoner, Alton Rodgers[i], these checks – which require them to check each prisoner and make sure he is alive and well – were avoided entirely by ranking staff, and it wasn’t odd for weeks to go by without seeing any of them. The checks are now being done as a corner-cutting damage control tool.
I stated to King that I thought Chambers may have had a stroke and needed help. King responded by telling me to give him a sick call. I told him it sounded like he’s fallen and couldn’t get up. King stated, “I guess he won’t need one then.”
Around 1:30 a.m., Officer Gary L. Linton was counting. He never really looked in any of the cells, only checked the list off as if the occupant was OK. I asked him if he could at least get Chambers to say something because I felt he’d had a stroke. He denied my request and carried on.
As Officer Austin G. Hodges cross counted, I explained to him what I explained to the others. He said that the cell was dark, so he used his flashlight to see. He looked back at me in shock and said “Man [stuff] is everywhere and he’s laying on the ground fucked up.” He asked Chambers what was wrong. He said Chambers didn’t reply, but tried to point to his head. Hodges wrote his cell number down then proceeded to finish counting. I demanded that he call for help right then, which he did.
The wheels of indifference go round and round
In response to the call, Grantham, King, Compson, Officer John N. Lewallen and a fat white officer showed up. After I explained to Grantham that I believed Chambers had a stroke and he’d been lying on the ground since 5 p.m., a cover-up began.
Grantham claimed that Chambers’ eyes were “glazed over,” which meant he’d overdosed on pills. I debunked this claim. Then Grantham claimed that he’d tried to hang himself, but no hanging device was in the cell. He refused to elaborate on the possibility of a stroke since he and the others who did the walk-through would be held responsible, as well as the counters. “You still ain’t learned how to mind your business,” King said.
They kind of hung around outside the cell for about five minutes, their interest seeming to be if Chambers would heal himself, coupled with jokes. When it became clear that Chambers needed serious medical attention, medical staff were called and LVN Rosanne Armijo responded.
It took roughly 15 minutes before they opened the cell door and carried Chambers out on a gurney. He had a droopy face and slobber hung out of his mouth, not to mention that he seemed paralyzed in one arm and leg. His medical condition became obvious – a stroke.
He was escorted to the medical unit, located in the building where – according to one of the escorts, Officer Strohl – he was seen by a short white doctor with glasses. King stated that LVN Mary Ellis and LVN Jeff Harvell were also present.
According to Strohl, the entire medical staff’s initial response (before they ran a single test) was that Chambers was faking. King stated that medical staff didn’t document that Chambers was seen.
When they did initiate a stroke test, since he didn’t respond to any of the doctor’s orders, he failed and the escorts were told to take him back. “He could barely talk and it looked like the whole left side of his body was paralyzed,” Strohl said. “They said he’ll make a full recovery, but he has brain damage,” he further suggested.
After being gone for nearly 10 minutes, Chambers was brought back to his cell in a wheelchair. I’m no medical specialist, but he looked like he had severe brain damage – very little cognitive brain activity with eyes darting around. He wasn’t able to walk, so officers lifted him from the wheelchair and practically dragged him into the cell. A witness (who I will keep anonymous) stated that they left him on the cell floor.
Chambers is left for dead on his cell floor by prison guards
From around midnight until 5:30 a.m., a newly hired officer, Leslie B. Martin, worked the pod. I asked her more than once if she could get Chambers some real medical assistance. She claimed that Briant told her that he was faking and to simply ignore him. She confirmed that he was lying on the ground by the door, eyes moving “everywhere, but looking at nothing.”
After passing him up during breakfast and observing him several hours later, she commented to me about his worsening condition. “I don’t know about that,” she told me in response to her last observation. She said she knew something wasn’t right but didn’t want to risk getting fired for disobeying Briant’s invented orders.
Martin even went as far as to falsify the meal log at Lewallen’s request, claiming Chambers verbally refused. “Just say he verbally refused,” Lewallen told Martin after she told him Chambers wouldn’t acknowledge her.
Around 5:30 a.m., Martin went home without letting her relief, Officer Morales and Timothy A. Linnville, know about Chambers’ condition, just as everyone else refused to do.
During bed book count around 6:45 a.m., I told Linnville about Chambers but he refused to check on him. Officer Morales came by and I told him. He immediately recognized something was wrong and called for help. Sgt. Chance J. Hayes, Officer Andres X. Diaz, Sgt. Victorio R. Gallegos Jr. and LVN Tammy Williams responded.
“He looks dead,” Hayes said while peering inside the cell. Despite this comment, he requested “non emergency” response assistance. Chambers was carried out of the cell, laid on a gurney, and sent to medical. I explained to everyone present that Chambers had been in that state since 5:00 p.m. the previous day.
Diaz stated that the nurses were laughing at Chambers and lollygagging because he was such a terrible actor. According to him they deliberately provided repugnant care because they knew he’d respond the same no matter how absurd the question.
King said that once Chambers went back to the building, different medical staff ran a test and realized that he needed emergency care. He was rushed to the hospital and sent to the intensive care unit. The 13 hour delay may have caused some permanent damage, including facial and body paralysis.[ii]
What caused Chambers’ injury?
A number of things could have caused Chambers’ injury. The most logical scenario is that he overheated while working out. Since we only get recreation two or three times a month, prisoners who work out have to do it in their cells. The Administrative Segregation cells here aren’t very cardio-vascular friendly.
In some cells, the air conditioning and exhaust vents don’t work or are so low that no cool air circulates. Any excess body heat, steam from the in-cell shower and humidity can cause the door windows to fog and walls to sweat. In a matter of minutes, a cell can turn into a hot box if the venting isn’t working properly and steam builds up.
I’ve almost passed out myself several times while cleaning water off my floor, following a shower. In fact, Chambers has complained about this very same ordeal in the past. In a Step 1 grievance (Grievance No. 2016205175) he filed on Aug. 31, 2016, he stated that maintenance knocked off the ventilation tube, making it impossible for air to blow in his cell.
He stated that after complaining to Officer Diaz on Aug. 30, 2016, about his in-cell ventilation not working, instead of this problem being fixed (since maintenance were on the pod), he was punished and denied commissary items he’d already paid for but was waiting to get.
Diaz was the culprit behind this and, due to his retaliatory tactics towards complainers being documented on a variety of prisoners’ grievances, Chambers told me he avoided writing anything that would compel Diaz to do something else. This is what his Step 1 did say:
“On 8-29-16 I talk [sic] to the Black [lieutenant] that work the night shift. I don’t know his name but I talk to him when he did his walk through on the cell block about my air conditioning vent in my cell because the week prior the [maintenance] had come inside my pipe chase for some unknown reason. They knock the ventilation tube off to where no air is blowing inside my cell … my cell sweat because of no air circulation.
“On 8-30-16 … I tried to get the [maintenance] officer’s attention numerous times but he continued to blow me off … I waited and when commissary made it to my door and seeing that [maintenance] was still right across the runway, I tried to tell Officer Diaz about my problem … but things didn’t go as expected. I was denied commissary and my vent is still off. I been trying to go about the situation the right way but nothing has been working for me.”
Since Chambers did note that the hose connecting to his vent was obstructed this could have occurred again. And due to staff retaliating when he complained in the past he may have chosen not to complain to avoid retribution.
Chambers did have a portable fan but the electrical outlets the fan plugs in to are routinely blown out by defective appliances, excess moisture from shower steam and deliberately turned off by vindictive guards. Normally, it takes many hours before it is turned back on.
One or many of these issues could have contributed to his injury and, if treated as soon as it was brought to staff’s attention, the outcome wouldn’t have been as bad.
To those reading this article, please help launch an internal investigation into systemic medical neglect and deliberate indifference Chambers was forced to bear. The unit is trying to whitewash the crime scene, scapegoat a few quackish medical staff, and protect the responsible ranking staff.
On June 22, 2017, during the initial investigation, Capt. Patricia Flowers had me and two others pulled out to write witness statements. Apparently, our facts were outweighed by the guilty. King approached me on his next shift and said he was glad that security staff were cleared. But several nurses may be fired.
Please help launch an internal investigation into systemic medical neglect and deliberate indifference Chambers was forced to bear. The unit is trying to whitewash the crime scene, scapegoat a few quackish medical staff, and protect the responsible ranking staff.
If you’d like to help, please send all complaints to the Ombudsman’s Office: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Ombudsman tends to be in collusion with TDCJ, but this is a start!
Dare to struggle, Dare to Win. All Power to the People!
Send our brother some love and light: Jason Renard Walker, 1532092, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107.
[i] “Killing Time: Lawsuit Reveals Officials Killed Prisoner, Framed Cellmate, and Lied to Media (2016),” rashidmod.com/?p:2232. Also see “How the Mysterious Death of One Prisoner Results in a Course of Action to Torture Others,” rashidmod.com/?p:2076.
[ii] Immediately after Chambers was hospitalized, guards began circulating rumors. Some say he died; some say he suffered a serious stroke and is still alive. But the facts are clear: Security and medical staff are responsible for any subsequent damage resulting from the initial injury.