Mother calls for clemency: ‘My sons were sentenced with time to serve, not a death sentence’

Mary Barbee

by Justice for Melvin and Robert Dillon 

Melvin Dillon and Robert Dillon, brothers who are incarcerated at the Nevada Southern Detention Center (NSDC), are in mortal danger. Their mother, Mary Barbee, has learned of improper handling of COVID-19 protocols at NSDC and is pleading with Gov. Steve Sisalek for their release.

Both Melvin and Robert struggle with chronic lung disease and asthma. Melvin Dillon also has high blood pressure. On “Groups at Higher Risk for Severe Illness,” published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are all recognized risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness. 

In addition, Robert Dillon was recently diagnosed with diverticulitis. He’s bled internally since mid-December without getting adequate care, despite numerous requests by him and his mother. He was recently told that it could be up to a year before he gets the care he needs because of hospital capacity issues with COVID-19. Meanwhile, his condition continues to get worse.

On “Prevent Getting Sick,” the CDC writes, “Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Rather than limit face-to-face contact, NSDC staff housed these brothers in a dormitory-style room with about 100 other people. These men, who are most susceptible to contracting a severe COVID-19 illness, sleep on bunk beds about 3 feet apart. Other people cycle in and out of this room.

On why practicing social distancing is important, the CDC writes, “COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19.”

Melvin and Robert Dillon are at considerable risk of severe illness and losing their lives to COVID-19 from both their well-documented health issues and NSDC staff’s limited options for limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Mary Barbee has also learned that a cafeteria employee who is coughing and sneezing is still working. We know prisoners and staff have been issued masks; however, the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) at the University of Oxford in guidance to their doctors advises that masks, whether surgical or respirator masks, “need to be used in combination with other PPE measures.” 

While other PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) isn’t necessarily recommended for people who are incarcerated, the key point here is that masks should be used with other protective measures, such as social distancing and quarantining those with symptoms. 

Considering this information from the CDC and CEBM, Mary Barbee believes her sons Melvin and Robert Dillon are at considerable risk of severe illness and losing their lives to COVID-19 from both their well-documented health issues and NSDC staff’s limited options for limiting the spread of COVID-19 in their facility.

“My sons were sentenced with time to serve, not a death sentence,” their mother says. In addition, they have been recommended for emergency release under the recent petition filed with the Nevada Supreme Court by defense attorneys Michael Horvath and Michael Mcavoyamaya. 

For these reasons, Mary Barbee pleads: “I respectfully ask you to use your power of clemency as governor of Nevada to order Warden Brian Koehn to release Mr. Melvin Lewis Dillon (55495048) and Mr. Robert John Dillon (55496048), so they may get the care and protection they need.”

Mother Mary Barbee’s urgent update to US marshal

This letter was sent May 19 to U.S. Marshal Gary Schofield:

Dear Marshal Schofield,

I am Robert Dillon’s mother, Mary Barbee. I asked you to help him and you did. Thank you for intervening. Robert did see Dr. Rivis last week. Unfortunately, Robert continues to worsen and needs more care.

As you may recall, Robert has bled internally since mid-December. He’s losing a lot of blood and feels weak. He excretes clots from his rectum now and can’t make it to the bathroom in time sometimes. His brother, Melvin Dillon (also incarcerated with him and awaiting a federal trial), has witnessed this.

According to the Mayo Clinic, this kind of bleeding can cause “shock, anemia and death.”

I believe Robert was diagnosed with diverticulitis, although I wasn’t in the room with him and the doctor. Regardless, Dr. Rivis at NSDC gave Robert a stool softener, which is a recommended treatment for people with constipation caused by diverticulitis, according to Mayo Clinic’s online guidance. 

Constipation, though, isn’t a symptom that my son is experiencing. Instead, he needs treatment for rectal bleeding caused by diverticulitis, also called diverticular bleeding. According to the Mayo Clinic, this kind of bleeding can cause “shock, anemia and death.” Nothing in the guidance for diagnosis and treatment for bleeding includes giving someone a stool softener.

Dr. Rivis wouldn’t let Mr. Dillon ask any questions about this course of treatment. In addition, Robert told me that Dr. Rivis has simply refused to properly test and evaluate him or refer him to another doctor. Robert has appealed to the head of medical issues at NSDC, a “Ms. Holly” as well as the assistant warden and the unit supervisor, Chief Sapp. He has also appealed to a Mr. Jefferson who is the U.S. marshal onsite.

Considering that Robert continues to worsen and has probably still not received adequate care, I respectfully ask that you once again use your power and authority to compel others to ensure that my son gets another visit with a doctor and gets evaluated and treated specifically for his rectal bleeding condition. 

I hope you appreciate this update. I know that it can be difficult to coordinate between federal, state and private entities when ensuring the health and welfare of someone in your custody. And in these times of COVID-19, this is even more difficult. 

Sincerely,

Mary Barbee, Mother of Robert John Dillon

Cc: Steve Sisolak, Governor, State of Nevada; Brian Koehn, Warden, Nevada Southern Detention Center; Jacky Rosen, U.S. Senator, State of Nevada; Steven Conry, Vice President, Operations Administration, CoreCivic

Mary Barbee asks that readers call on Nevada Gov. Sisolak to release her sons: Steve Sisolak, Governor of Nevada, State Capitol Building, 101 N. Carson St., Carson City, NV 89701, phone 775-684-5670, fax 775-684-5683.