In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Inquest into Death Urges Improved Healthcare at Private Prison

Stark Raven
Oct 4, 2004

A coroners jury is urging improved prisoner healthcare in Canada’s only private prison. Jeffrey Elliot died in the Central North Correctional Centre last year. He died after a cut on his finger became infected.

A hand surgeon speaking at the inquest said that the medical staff “missed the boat” in treating Jeffery Elliott. Jeffrey should have seen a doctor earlier, and when things worsened, should have been sent out to a hospital.

The jury called the death accidental. Jeffery’s father felt that it should have been called a homicide, because of the neglect his son experienced. He hopes that further deaths can be prevented.

Six months before Jeffrey’s death, the emergency department at the nearby hospital told of prisoners arriving at the hospital in crisis situations.

Several judges, lawyers and activists, have all spoken out, saying that the for-profit prison guarantees its bottom-line results by minimizing prisoner healthcare.

The healthcare at the prison is sub-contracted to another private company, Arizona-based First Correctional Medical.

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For More Information: Citizens Against Private Prisons

Coroner's jury urges improved inmate care
Inquest says man's death was accidental
But jail's staff `missed the boat', doctor says

Sep.27, 2004.

MIDLAND, Ont.—The father of a convict who died after a tiny cut on his finger became infected hopes a sweeping call by a coroner's jury for improved medical treatment for inmates will prevent similar deaths.

"If Jeffrey had got proper medical treatment, maybe he would be with us today, so I'm hoping that his legacy will be that his death will bring changes for other inmates,'' said Tom Elliott on Friday, shortly after the three-man, two-woman jury found that the death of Jeffrey Elliott, 20, was accidental.

"I think it should have been homicide because the jury heard about a lot of mistakes that were made in Jeffrey's treatment,'' said Elliott of Beachburg near Pembroke.

During the inquest Dr. Paul Binhammer, a hand surgeon at Toronto's Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, said medical staff at Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene — Canada's first privately run jail — "missed the boat" in treating Elliott.

He had cut his finger on the food hatch of a fellow prisoner's cell door on Aug. 1, 2003.

By Aug. 9, Elliott's wound was seeping pus, indicating the wound was "in an advanced stage" of tenosynovitus, a serious infection of the tendons, said Binhammer.

But nurses at the jail didn't contact the doctor on call and a doctor didn't see Elliott until two days later, the jury heard.

"They didn't know how to treat this infection," said Binhammer, who was asked by the coroner to undertake an independent review of Elliott's medical care at the jail.

Binhammer told the jury Elliott "would have been well served" to have been sent to hospital as soon as Aug. 3 or 4 when his hand started to swell.

Elliott's death on Aug. 29, 2003, occurred just six months after the then-head of the emergency department at the nearby hospital told the Star inmates at the prison arrived writhing in agony because they hadn't received proper medication at the jail.

These comments echo others made previously by judges, lawyers and activists, who claimed that the for-profit institution guaranteed its bottom-line results by minimizing inmate care.

The institution denied those accusations.

It said its medical care, which is contracted out, was found adequate in two separate audits. The jail also said the care met the standards of its contract with the province.

But Peter Mount, communications director at the jail, acknowledged Friday that changes need to be made in response to the jury's recommendations.

"We are responsible for these inmates so we will review the issues raised and work toward implementing changes to help prevent this type of tragedy from happening again,'' said Mount, who sat through all seven days of the inquest.

The jury's recommendations included that:

Medical staff at the jail ensure proper hygiene of inmates when in medical unit.

Physicians at the jail review the management of hand infections.

Nursing staff at the jail review the signs and symptoms of soft tissue infection.

The jail should educate cleaning staff on the necessity of proper procedures regarding sanitation.

All hand wounds should be properly covered to avoid infection and checked daily until healing process is noted.

Medical department at the jail should review the allotted hours for physician coverage to facilitate optimum inmate care.

Tom Elliott, clutching a greeting card found among his son's personal effects, fought back tears as he voiced his concern that the provincial government's experiment in jails for profit might have played a role in his son's death.

"When the focus is on saving money, something ends up lacking. It's like buying something at discount store, you don't always get quality,'' said Elliott.

He travelled from Pembroke with his 78-year-old mother to attend the inquest. Utah-based Management Training Company, which runs the jail, charges the province $75 per inmate per day as part of a five-year, $141-million contract.

That compares to between $140 and $200 per day that it costs the government for each inmate in a public institution.

Medical care at the jail has been contracted out to Arizona-based First Correctional Medical. On Thursday, jail officials gave Elliott's family the greeting card, which read "Dear Dad and Grandma. Lots of love always — Jeffrey Elliott," a signet ring, a pair of broken sunglasses and his medical wristband.

After the verdict, Elizabeth Elliott held her hand with her grandson's ring on the finger to her chest.

"Jeffrey was a wonderful loving grandson who was loved by a lot of people and although he got into trouble, he wasn't a bad person,'' she said.

Mount agreed.

"Everybody at the jail said Jeffrey wasn't a hardened criminal, he was a good young man,'' he said.