Reggie’s gone now. Looking back, prison was no place for him from the get-go.
I’m here to tell his sad story today, trying to point out, once again, how the system fails people. In this case, the failure came at three levels: in the fields of mental health, justice, and physical health. Granted, people struggle with all three of these, and many more issues, daily. But I gotta tell ya, when you factor in racial minority and poverty, the struggles are amplified, and can seem insurmountable.
A year before he entered prison Reggie suffered a stroke, and mentally, he was never right since then. Those close to him would sometime get turned off by his uncontrollable laughing, for example, even though he couldn’t help it. But, mental health care was elusive.
Then came that prison business. Those close to him say it was a wrongful conviction…no motive, no weapon, no proof. Justice was elusive. We see and hear and read about wrongful convictions every day, but again, factor in issues of race and poverty, and chances are things won’t turn out well.
That wasn’t all. During his prison stay, physical problems seemed to multiply: a heart attack, kidney failure, blood pressure issues. Still only 51 years of age, things turned even worse with a serious infection and gangrene. With limited mental capacity, he would refuse dialysis on some days because he didn’t feel like it, not realizing that this was a life and death matter. Those involved in medical care seemed indifferent. He was just a prisoner.
Things weren’t easy for frustrated family members on the outside, either. They didn’t know where to turn, and sadly, our office held no magic wand. They’d go to see him, and he wouldn’t be there. Heartless prison staff would say he’s gone for medical treatment, but wouldn’t say where. Adequate and caring medical care was elusive.
Word is that he went from hospital to hospital, then ended up at the prison’s dark and dank Duane Waters health center. That’s where his sister found him, seriously bloated from lack of kidney flushing. And that’s where he died a few days ago.
The state has another empty bed, and another statistic addition.
These stories never get any easier for us.
Our Medical Director found one bright spot in this one: He’s in a better place now.