Family of man who died in prison sues

12/09/2010

LAS CRUCES – The family of an epileptic Mexican man who died in prison two years ago has filed a lawsuit against the federal government and those in charge of the Reeves County, Texas, Detention Center for his death.

Jesus Manuel Galindo, 32, died Dec. 12, 2008, after having a seizure in what’s called the Secure Housing Unit, where prisoners are placed for “medical observation,” according to Tom Barry, with the Center for International Policy.

Galindo, who had lived in Anthony, N.M., since his mid-teens and was married to a legal resident, was serving a 30-month sentence for illegally re-entering the country in 2007 after his deportation to Juárez, according to the CIP. He was appealing the sentence at the time.

The lawsuit, which has been in the works since 2009, was announced Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and El Paso attorneys Mike Torres and Leon Schydlower. It names employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the GEO Group (which operates the for-profit prison in Pecos, Texas), Reeves County and Physicians Network Association, the facility’s contracted medical provider, as responsible parties in Galindo’s death.

Galindo left behind three children, all citizens.

“The Galindo family has suffered a terrible loss, a loss that could have been prevented if Reeves County Detention Center officials had responded to Jesus Manuel Galindo’s repeated pleas for care as well as requests on Galindo’s behalf from fellow inmates and his mother,
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Graciela Galindo,” said Torres, in a prepared statement.

“A prison sentence should not be a death sentence because officials are unwilling to provide basic medical care,” added Schydlower.

Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, said Physicians Network Association had “a documented record of providing constitutionally inadequate care, and federal officials looked the other way while inmates like Mr. Galindo were denied access to the most basic medical necessities.”

“A prisoner’s citizenship status does not matter. The Constitution says any person held in a United States prison deserves equal protection under the law,” Graybill said.

In letters to his mother, Galindo wrote of his plight to get his seizure-preventing medicine, which prison nurses had allegedly replaced with sedatives, according to the CIP.

“On Dec. 5 he wrote of being ‘afraid’ of what would happen to him if he stayed in the hole any longer, of how his plea to get out of the SHU was being ignored by the guards and nurses, of his bruises from thrashing around during unattended seizures.”

And the day before he died, he wrote, “I told them that I have been here (in SHU) for a month, and I’ve gotten sick twice, and let’s see if they move me or do something quickly. All they say is ‘yes, yes,’ and they don’t do anything,'” CIP reported.

After Galindo’s death, rioting inmates set fire to the prison and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, according to CIP.

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