Glossing Over Mistreatment in The Magbie Case


i wanna be cool too!
Oct 22, 2005
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Washington, D.C. -- Jonathan Magbie was a 27-year-old man who was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a childhood accident. Although he had never been convicted of a criminal offense and although he required private nursing care for as much as 20 hours a day, Magbie was given a 10-day sentence in the D.C. jail in September 2004 by D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin for possession of a marijuana cigarette. He died in city custody four days later. His story has been the subject of several previous columns.

Earlier this week Edward D. Reiskin, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, provided D.C. Council members David Catania (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairmen, respectively, of the council's Health and Judiciary committees, with the findings from the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) investigation into the care provided Magbie from Sept. 20 to Sept. 24, 2004.

Actually, to call the Corrections Department's report an "investigation" is like describing a BB gun as an AK-47. The eight-page document produced by the department's Office of Internal Affairs attempts to explain away a more extensive and highly critical investigation into Magbie's death that D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby conducted last October. Willoughby's report and the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and two lawyers on behalf of Magbie's mother, Mary R. Scott, are more credible. They provide real insight into Magbie's neglectful treatment by the criminal justice system.

Now to the Department of Corrections "investigation." The findings were dutifully and uncritically transmitted to the council by Reiskin, who, incidentally, complained to lawmakers that "the investigation was hindered by legal advice provided to [the contractor medical staff] by its counsel not to release any information to DOC regarding this issue due to pending litigation."

That clampdown on salient information did not, however, stop Corrections from arriving on the scene after Willoughby completed his extensive investigation and producing an Internal Affairs document that exonerates or at least gives a virtuous appearance to many of the actions by staff and employees at the corrections facility where Magbie was confined. But even Corrections couldn't cover all the participants with whitewash.

In some cases, Corrections' critical findings were accompanied by recommended disciplinary actions that have all the harshness of a beating with a wet noodle.

Internal Affairs Found:

* There were instances in which Magbie's medical care was not documented. But the nurses culpable in the acts of omission couldn't be identified because the medical contractor, paid by the Corrections Department with D.C. tax dollars, wouldn't give access to the contractor's employees.

* The associate medical director of the jail where Magbie was confined knew about Magbie's vulnerable medical condition and that he needed acute care immediately, but failed to notify higher-ups. The associate medical director, the report noted, resigned last October. Undeterred, Corrections bravely directed the medical contractor to "place a letter of reprimand in the doctor's Official Personnel File" and to determine "any other appropriate disciplinary action to be pursued against the doctor."

* Correctional and medical staff provided written memos to the Corrections Department director stating that they never saw Magbie's cell door locked while he was in the unit. (It should have remained unlocked, because there was no way that Magbie, a quadriplegic, could reach the emergency button.) Corrections discovered information that contradicted the staff-written memos: Magbie's cell door had in fact been locked, in violation of doctor's orders. For their lying, Corrections fearlessly instructed the warden, disciplinary action was to be taken against the two officers and a disciplinary letter placed in the personnel file of each.

* A physician in the Corrections facility housing Magbie told the inspector general that he was unaware of Magbie's return from Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where he had been taken as an emergency patient during his first night in jail. It turns out, the Corrections report noted, that the physician did see Magbie upon his return. That physician, thundered the Corrections report, "will no longer be permitted on DOC premises . . . this action is to take place posthaste."

As for the Corrections Department's decision to keep the ventilator-dependent Magbie confined for four days to the Correctional Treatment Facility, where no ventilator or appropriate medical care was available?

The "investigation," done by Corrections staff and passed along by Reiskin, gave the rest of the nurses, physicians and staff a pass.

Judge Retchin? She was cleared by the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure.

Say this much for ol' D.C., it takes care of its own.

If justice is to be had in this case, it won't be found in D.C. agencies. Better to look to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. That's where the Jonathan Magbie lawsuit is filed.

Note: Non related portion removed. Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Colbert I. King
Published: Saturday, April 8, 2006; Page A23
Copyright: 2006 Washington Post



Git "R" lit
Apr 19, 2005
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......"mistreatment"..?...sounds more like manslaughter to me..:(

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