Commissioner Lumon May has been handling dozens of calls from the families – white and black – of those prisoners caught in the April 29 explosion at the Central Booking and Detention Center. Those hurt in the blast and currently housed at the county road camp are being treated harshly if they ask for medical attention, according to their wives and mothers.
Under the condition that I would protect their identities, the commissioner got a few of them to talk with me. Three weeks ago, Director of Corrections Gordon Pike told the county commission at its Committee of the Whole meeting that he had hired six mental health counselors and an additional doctor to tend to those hurt in the explosion. The families interviewed today said that their loved ones have not seen any counselors and medical care is being discouraged by correctional officers.
One wife had a handwritten note from her husband that she read: “I’m waking up having nightmares, not knowing where I am. I have shooting pains, trouble breathing, radiating pain to my right knee, no feeling in my right foot. I keep feeling lightheaded like I’m about to pass out. Constant headaches, shooting pains in my chest. Depression, constant nightmares.”
The prisoner wrote, “Every time I hear a loud sudden noise I jump. I keep thinking I might have died in the explosion and I’m in purgatory.”
The county has made the visit to a medical doctor or nurse so unbearable that prisoners at the road camp are afraid to request medical care. Families talked about prisoners being awaken at 2 a.m. and placed in holding cells the morning of their medical appointment at the main jail. Some complained of prisoners sitting in holding cells isolated for 17 hours, only to have a five-minute visit with a doctor to be given Ibuprofen.
Guards have tormented prisoners. They walk around with flashlights and hitting things, then laughing when the inmates jump. They have told inmates that they were going to draw names if you asked for medical and send five to the main jail where they would be punished.
“No matter what anybody has done, this is not the way to treat them,” shared a mother. “They are humans.”