February 16, 2015 — Alameda County has agreed to pay a record-breaking $8.3 million to the family of a 50 year-old man who died in the custody of the jail system in 2010.
The Contra Costa Times reports that the man, Martin Harrison of Oakland, California, was arrested for jaywalking and failing to appear in court for a DUI case.
At the Santa Rita Jail, attorneys say Harrison was hallucinating from delirium tremens, a severe form of alcohol withdrawal for which he should have been hospitalized. Instead, he was Tased and beaten by ten sheriff’s deputies and died two days later.
Civil rights attorneys representing Harrison’s family blamed his death on Corizon Health, the nation’s largest for-profit provider of health services for jails.
During Harrison’s intake medical assessment, he was screened by an unsupervised licensed vocational nurse (LVN) instead of a registered nurse (RN), as is required by state law. The nurse released Harrison into the general population without medical supervision. Three days later, he went into withdrawal and had an altercation with deputies.
As part of the settlement, Corizon Health has agreed to use only RNs to conduct the screenings. According to attorneys, Corizon falsely reported that RNs were doing intake screenings when they received accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
The $8.3 million award is the largest civil rights wrongful death settlement in California’s history. The second-largest was a $5 million settlement awarded to the family of an unarmed man who was shot and killed by Los Angeles police.
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