Leon Alfano, et al. v. Corrections Corporation of America and Autumn Miller, et al. v. Corrections Corporation of America

Slack Davis Sanger represented two clients who were being held at the Dawson State Jail, which was owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In both cases, CCA was required to provide prisoners with reasonable access to medical care and neglected to do so, violating their constitutional rights.

In the Alfano case, a young female prisoner was transferred to Dawson State Jail in late May 2010. She was an extremely brittle, insulin-dependent diabetic. In Dawson, the medical clinic was only staffed during the day. If there was an illness or injury after clinic hours, the prisoners were dependent on CCA staff to provide them access to medical care. Several times in late May and June, Ms. Alfano suffered severe hypoglycemic events and was found unresponsive or comatose. The CCA staff called in medical staff to administer her insulin, and she recovered. Due to the extreme state of her health, our client’s cellmate wrote an unprompted letter to our client’s family, urging them to seek more appropriate placement for their daughter where she could be medically monitored. In July 2010, Ms. Alfano began vomiting repeatedly after hours. She was escorted to the empty clinic and placed on a mattress on the floor where she waited over five hours for the clinic staff to arrive. During those hours waiting on the floor of the clinic, her blood sugars were wildly out of control and her body went into diabetic keto-acidosis. She died later that day.

In the Miller case, a female prisoner was sent to Dawson State for a one year sentence for violating her probation on a previous drug possession charge. In May, approximately three months after arriving at the prison, our client began cramping, bleeding, and feeling fatigued. She filled out a Sick Call Request. As she began to feel worse, her cellmates and friends also began submitting requests for treatment on her behalf. Despite fifteen to twenty requests for medical attention being submitted, CCA never provided medical care for Ms. Miller. In June at around 1:30 AM, guards were notified that our client was in severe pain and bleeding profusely. The guards waited almost four hours before taking her to have a tele-medicine consultation. Even then, instead of allowing Ms. Miller to describe her symptoms to the doctor, the CCA guard told the doctor that she did not need medical care and shut off the monitor. The guard gave her a menstrual pad and put her back in her cell. In pain, bleeding and screaming, our client gave birth to a very premature baby alone in her cell. Eventually the guards re-entered the cell and called for medical attention. The EMS helped to finish the delivery and then took the baby away. Ms. Miller was handcuffed and her legs shackled and was transported to the hospital later. Our client’s child died after four days in the hospital.

These two cases were filed against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for violating inmates’ constitutional rights at Dawson State Jail. Paula Sweeney filed suit on behalf of both of these clients and their families and secured confidential settlements for both of them. Additionally the suit brought much-needed attention to this abusive institution, and it was subsequently shut down.

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Paula Sweeney

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