These two cases highlighted in this report by KTUL are some examples of the Tulsa County Jail denying proper medical to inmates. Partner Dan Smolen talks to KTUL about the Tulsa County Jail trying to hide poor medical care by changing medical records when faced with an audit.
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TULSA, OK – A series of deaths involving inmates at the Tulsa County jail is raising questions about inmate welfare and medical records tampering.
The jail is run by Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who is at the center of a separate investigation involving the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a reserve deputy.
Now a family is demanding answers and changes from the jail.
Deborah Young-Powell’s mother, Gwendolyn, is grandmother to more than a dozen grandkids.
Powell says she her mom was bi-polar, and when her mother was accused of threatening a judge she was sentenced to a year in jail in October 2012.
Almost four months later Powell would never have the chance to see her mother again.
Powell says her mother complained of lower back and stomach pain, along with nausea and vomiting for three days.
The family ordered an autopsy.
The autopsy report states that she died of a blunt force trauma to the head which caused injury to her neck, Powell said.
Sheriff Glanz said he didn’t know about the autopsy.
“I don’t know in that particular case,” he said. “If it’s under litigation, I couldn’t talk to you about it.”
Glanz said the jail does have a problem.
“The system is not right now and we’re trying to help it along,” he said.
One person caught in that system was Charles Jernegan, who was found hanging in his cell 70 hours after sending the message: “i need to speek with someone about problems.”
Jernegan suffered from paranoia, depression, and schizophrenia, which landed him in and out of jail in 2009.
Jernegan sent a message to staff on January 25 saying “PLZ ANSWER ME MY PANIC ATTACKS AND INSOMIA IS GETIN WORSE.”
The repeated response from the jail: “You have been added to the mental health call out list. Please keep in mind Dr. Harish is only here 3 days a week.”
When he was booked in July, he filled out a questionnaire. The judge on this case noted that because Jernegan had checked yes to three questions he should have been referred for further mental health evaluation according to the jail’s policy, and there was no indication that occurred.
Instead he was sent into the general population, but never came out.
Attorney for the families, Dan Smolen, says these two cases are some examples of the jail denying proper medical to inmates.
“You see a dramatic increase in what we believe to be constitutional right deprivation occurring after July of 2005 and continuing on,” Smolen said.
“I feel like it’s an epidemic in the jail, an epidemic at the Tulsa county sheriff’s office, and I live here,” he said.
Smolen says the jail is trying to hide poor medical care by changing medical records when they faced an audit, pointing to testimony in the case.
One nurse at the jail testified that during the 2010 NCCHC audit process she was asked “to doctor medical charts by backdating undocumented information.”
And a records manager when asked if she ever was asked to falsify documents at the jail testified “yes.” When asked “were you ever asked to falsify charts?” she testified “yes.”
Tulsa’s Channel 8 asked Sheriff Glanz about the accusations that records were falsified at the jail.
“I’m not really sure that really happened,” he said. “That may have been an ex-employee that said that”
Glanz says that lawsuits against jails are common.
Smolen, who also represents the family of the man who was shot by a reserve deputy last month, says he currently has 10 pending cases against the Tulsa County sheriff’s office.
PUBLISHED: May 6, 2015
*image from KTUL