A Oakland man awaiting a hearing on charges related to a squabble over a mask mandate was denied medical care in a California jail leading to his death, according to a lawsuit obtained by the Atlanta Black Star.
Court documents show Maurice Monk, 45, died after 35 days in Alameda County Santa Rita Jail from hypertensive cardiovascular disease after he was denied his blood pressure medication. Jail staff also did not give Monk medication for his diabetes or schizophrenia. His daughter, Nia’Amore Monk, is suing the county and jail employees.
Nia’Amore’s attorneys said the jail has a “pattern and practice of exposing pre-trial detainees to unconstitutional detention conditions and procedures” that have remained unaddressed.
Incoming Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez told KTVU she would treat people in the “jails and on the streets” with more humanity once in office. Sanchez, who takes office in January, said she plans to provide more oversight over the jail’s embattled medical provider, Wellpath, and improve communication between detainees’ families and the jail.
“We need to change the way things are being done,” she said last month.
Monk’s was the 57th death reported at the jail since 2014, and he was not the only person who died at the jail on Nov. 15, 2021.
The number of deaths in the Santa Rita Jail over that span since 2014 is now 59, according to reports. Court documents show the Dublin, California, jail outpaces every jail in the country in inmate deaths per capita.
The father of two and football coach was brought to Santa Rita on Oct. 11, 2021.
According to reports, Monk was arrested on June 2, 2021, in relation to charges he cussed out a bus driver and told him he would “f— him up,” but he did not “hurt him in any way.” He later missed a court appearance for the misdemeanor charge, court records show, leading to a bench warrant being issued against him. When he was picked up on that warrant in October his family could not afford to pay the $2,500 bail to keep him out of jail until he could get a trial date.
When Monk died, jail spokesman Lt. Ray Kelly said it was from natural causes.
“It’s unfortunate when a person passes away at our jail,” Kelly told the KTVU in an email. “Many of the people who come to us suffer from serious illness, poverty and lack of access to regular external health care in the community.”
Monk’s family members immediately refuted the claims. Court documents show that as soon as Monk was incarcerated, his sister, Elvira Monk contacted the jail and informed them of her brother’s medical conditions. She provided medical records and documentation showing his prescriptions and brought his medication to the jail. However, the jail rejected her attempts to get Monk’s medical needs met, “instead sending her through a series of unnecessary bureaucratic processes,” the complaint says.
According to reports, Elvira was told that medication had to come directly from Kaiser. She said email copies of the prescription information seemed to go into the spam folder and were never received. She was told to fax the information on Nov. 16, 2021, but her brother had already died the day before.
“Ya’ll didn’t give him his medicine,” Maurice’s sister, Tiffany Monk, said at the time of his death.
That same year, Terry Gordon was detained at Santa Rita and was taking medication for a neck and spine operation. The jail nurse gave him the wrong medicine and tried to cover It up, the lawsuit alleges. Gordon dealt with adverse side effects because of the error.
Medical staff last year also noticed a discharge from Juan Jesus Chaidez’s colostomy bag on his abdomen. Still, they left it untreated and noted that he had a normal discharge with no infection. However, Chaidez suffered a colitis infection inside his colon and pelvis.
Chaidez, Gordon and Monk are just a few cases of medical neglect reported in the county jail.
In 2017, Peter Cole told medical staff he had three abscessed teeth, but his requests for treatment were ignored. Cole’s face was swollen and infected for at least a month and a half until medical care was finally rendered, court documents show. He suffered permanent disfiguration in his face, jaw and gums as a result.
Even more, the lawsuit alleges that the jail has a practice of putting patients with mental illnesses in isolation cells to segregate them simply because of their conditions. Monk was placed in a solitary confinement cell during his time at the Santa Rita, which his attorneys believe could have exacerbated his illness along with not being provided medicine to treat his schizophrenia. He was supposed to receive his next injection of Halido on November 9, 2021, the lawsuit says.
“By Jail policy, prisoners can be confined for up to 72 hours in these cells. Yet it is customary for prisoners to be forced to stay in such cells for a week or more at a time,” the lawsuit says.
Conditions in solitary confinement are so bad, the lawsuit alleges, that “prisoners have stopped reporting suicidal feelings to staff in order to avoid being thrown into safety cells.”
In 2018, eight detainees filed a lawsuit against Alameda County for the unconstitutional use of isolation cells on inmates with mental issues. The isolation cells were “found to be caked in feces and urine with no furniture or toilet, and denial of even minimal access to psychiatric treatment and medication.”
Nia’Amore’s lawsuit alleges that she and her father suffered “injuries, emotional distress, fear, terror, anxiety, and loss of sense of security, dignity, and pride as United States Citizens” because of the jail’s actions. She is suing for damages for her father’s death, hospital and medical, funeral and burial expenses and coroner’s fees. She also wants the county to compensate her for the loss of familial relationships, her and her father’s pain and suffering, violating his constitutional rights and her attorney fees.
Wellpath, the company behind medical care at the Santa Rita jail, has a history of legal troubles. The billion-dollar medical company has contracts in jails and prisons in 34 states. More than 1,400 lawsuits have been filed against WellPath and Correct Care Solutions, reports show.
Alice Penman, the widow of a man who died in Kentucky State Penitentiary, received a settlement from Correct Care Solutions in January after she filed a wrongful death suit. Penman complained that the prison’s medical staff ignored her husband’s mental illness and instead subjected him to physical torture during a mental episode that led to his death.