Prison Complaints: How To Guide/Example


February 5, 2019.

The following is a step by step complaint filing process that I took via the Inmate Complaint Review System (ICRS) to grieve about prison staff denying me access to medical care. 

                       INMATE COMPLAINT

        COMPLAINT NUMBER GBCI-2018-15174

     On 7-13-18 after Jumu’ah prayer, I messed up my back while trying to pick someone up off the floor, which caused me some back pain. As the day progressed, my back pain was getting worse and spreading down my leg. By 8:45 p.m., the pain was excruciating and hurt even more when I attempted to bend at the waist, sit up straight, stand up, sit down, or put any kind of pressure on my left leg. The pain was so bad and progressing that I had to do one prayer sitting down and the last one I was unable to do because the pain distracted me from praying. A disturbance happened that mandated that everyone lock in. So I submitted a DOC-3035 form (blue slip) to be seen by the Health Services Unit (HSU) staff. By 11:55 p.m. I told C.O. Larkin that I needed to see HSU because I have a medical emergency. He told me that he can’t stop right now and kept walking. At 12:07 a.m., I stopped C.O. Kammer, told him about my back pain and that I needed to see HSU. He told me that he believes no one is here from HSU. I told him to call somebody. At 1:24 a.m., I stopped C.O. Kammer and asked him about me seeing HSU. He told me to put in a blue slip. I told him that I had already done that. He said that I will have to wait until HSU responds. I then asked to speak to a Lt. or Capt., and C.O. Kammer told me that Capt. Elsinger told him that my pain wasn’t a medical emergency. At 6:35 a.m., I told Sgt. Keller about my medical need for HSU and he told me that my pain was not a medical emergency, and to go lock in.

                           ICE REPORT 

     Summary of Facts: Inmate West complains that he had back pain and staff denied him medical treatment. He states that he was at Jumah and tried to pick an inmate off the floor which caused him back pain. He states that later in the night the pain worsened and he need [sic] to see HSU due to this medical emergency but staff didn’t let him. Officer Maher stated that when he was making rounds, Inmate West would come to the door and complain that his back hurt. He contacted Capt. Elsinger and Capt. Elsinger told him that back pain is not a medical emergency. RN Garland stated that Inmate West was seen on [sic] by HSU on Monday. Since back pain is not a medical emergency, the ICE recommends dismissing this complaint. HSU treated him on Monday.


     Their decision failed to address my grievance that Sgt. Keller also denied my request for medical treatment for my pain when he responded to my need for him to contact HSU that my pain was not a “medical” emergency, and then ordered me to go lock myself in my cell. These SECURITY staff made a MEDICAL decision to deny me medical treatment. In a previous complaint decision, Ms. Cynthia Thorpe, in her capacity as the final decision-maker in all medical complaints in the Inmate Complaint Review System,  “affirmed with modification” my Complaint No. CCI-2011-4950 wherein I alleged denial of medical care from a Sgt. who refused to honor my request to contact HSU for my medical problem. In her decision, Ms. Thorpe stated in her Reason(s) for Decision: “If inmate ask officers to contact HSU for medical condition and fail to do so, the officer exceed [sic] his job description because he just made a medical decision which he is not required to do. The situation here could appear to be routine and non-emergent, however, the nurse should have followed up with this patient to determine what signs and symptoms he had and triaged the problem. Therefore this is affirmed with modification directing this to the HSM.” (See enclosed Reviewer’s Decision for Complaint No. CCI-2011-4950.) Like in the CCI decision, none of the GBCI security staff are medical staff yet they made a medical decision to deny me access to medical care by making a medical judgment and refusing to contact HSU. See enclosed July 20, 2018 letter to me from GBCI’s Health Services Manager, J. Lutsey.) Consequently, GBCI security staff exceeded their job descriptions.

CCE’s Recommendation: Affirmed. Contact with the BHS Nursing Coordinator indicated that security staff cannot determine an inmate’s medical need or emergency. Security staff does not have the medical background to determine such. The instance outlined in this complaint and appeal should have been handled in accordance to DAI Policy 500.00.04 in Reporting Health Concerns to On-Call Nursing Staff, in which, at least, a phone triage with the on call nursing staff could occur. As well, according to the DAI Policy 500.10.08, Access to care requires an inmate to be seen (or evaluated) in a timely manner, and provided a professional clinical judgment, along with assessment by a qualified health professional, and receive determined care accordingly. Therefore it is recommended this appeal be affirmed.


     Decision Comments: The following is the Secretary’s decision on the Corrections Complaint Examiner’s recommendation of 09/26/2018 in the above appeal: The attached Corrections Complaint Examiner’s recommendation to AFFIRM this appeal is accepted as the decision of the Secretary. 11/05/18.