Behind Bars, with Diabetes

By GabbyPA Latest Reply 2017-01-05 19:28:48 -0600
Started 2012-08-01 08:29:24 -0500

I started reading this man's story and I was in disbelief. What a nightmare. I know a lot of us feel trapped with managing our diabetes…wait til you read his story.

by DiaTribe

At first glance, James D. Ward is not the most sympathetic figure. In 2006, he pled guilty to “delivery of a controlled substance that resulted in a death.” The substance was heroin. He already had a criminal record – he’d been caught, according to his father, changing prices at a Wal-Mart earlier that year – and he was given a 15-year sentence for the drug crime. At age 25, he had already fathered four children with four different women.

But it’s also possible to see “Jay,” as he is known, as a kind of victim, or at least someone with a horrific run of bad luck. In 2005, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was removed surgically. After the operation, he was prescribed painkillers, only to become addicted, which led him to his use of heroin, according to his father, James J. Ward.

After Jay was arrested on the drug charge, he was held in a jail in Plano, Texas. The first night he called his father and told him that his stomach was hurting. He was also thirsty and was having to go to the bathroom frequently. James J. Ward’s mother had type 1 diabetes, but he didn’t know the symptoms. Jay was taken to Parkland Hospital and given an X-ray, which came back negative, and he was returned to the jail. But his illness continued, including shortness of breath and vomiting. Days passed, until one night the Sergeant called an ambulance, and the paramedic who saw Jay had the good sense to test his blood sugar. It was 951.

Jay called his father each night, so when James didn’t hear from him, he called the Sergeant, who told him that his son had been taken to the Emergency Room. James dropped the receiver, and it was still off the hook when he returned two days later.

At the hospital, James saw his son in a diabetic coma. “They had a tube right down him,” he said. “I about died right there. The doctor wouldn’t tell me if he was going to live.”

The doctor later said that Jay had a 10 percent chance of surviving the night. He did, but now he had to manage his type 1 diabetes while in custody. His diagnosis did come with one saving grace: when he got out of the hospital, he was no longer addicted to heroin.

According to his father, Jay was innocent of the drug crime but was “sold out” by a public defender who convinced his son to plead guilty in order to receive a lesser sentence. Regardless, Jay was now facing 15 years in prison.

“I got cancer, I got diabetes, and I ended up in prison,” Jay told me in a recent telephone interview.

Unfortunately, his problems were just beginning.

What does it mean to have diabetes in prison? For starters, there are plenty of inmates with the disease. According to the ADA, of the more than 2 million people incarcerated in jails and prisons in the United States, nearly 80,000, or 4.8 percent, have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. That is somewhat below the prevalence rate of the general population, probably because the prison demographic is younger.

No prison will ever be known for excellent health care, but every prisoner is entitled to adequate health care – a Constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment. What’s more, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has issued guidelines for the management of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational – which are to be followed by each federal prison in America. The document, most recently updated in 2012, is 50 pages and quite thorough, covering everything from “Definite Indications for Insulin as Initial Therapy” to “Cardinal Signs of Periodontitis.” It also stipulates that frequent monitoring of blood glucose (three times a day) is optimal for a diabetic patient on insulin.

In other words, any federal prison that does what it’s supposed to do, in following its own guidelines, should provide adequate diabetic care.

Read the whole story:

23 replies

Nana_anna 2012-08-06 09:18:45 -0500 Report

Welcome to the world of prison! I worked in a prison setting for two years. I also worked in a Mental Health institution for 4 years. All the same atmosphere, no good. The inmates are protected by cells, bars, and confinments. But once they have an illness, there is no one there to help. Medical is there but by the time they get to there appoinment its to late. They suffer the most. Because of lack of concern for their health, the officers can only do so much. I am not suprised at this story at all. Because it is so common in the prison systems. They are placed in there cells, and thats it. They have to fight to survive and don't get what they request. Everything has to be requested, by the inmate. Its usaully a few days later, before they get anything. It doesn't matter what illness they have. Some just don't get the quick responses needed. Even diabetics.

CJ55 2012-08-03 07:28:41 -0500 Report

This article was very interesting as were all the comments made regarding the article. Some things I agreed with and some I didn't agree with. However, I do feel that prisioners should be treated fairly when it comes to their health. Especially when medication is essential for the illness. Why can't prisoners with health issues be put in a separate area of the prision. Have a full time medical person available 24/7 to give out needed meds, and give shots at the appropreate time. The government wastes so much money on stupid things. How hard would it be to have someone full time in the infirmary. I know of a man/prisoner who was mentally challenged, and he was sent to a regular prision. After 6 long grueling days of tourture from different inmates, (the guards did nothing to help him) He finally ended up being beaten to death. He was only 24. Accused of a crime I believe he didn't commit. I do agree everyone who commits a crime should do their time, but I also believe people with challenges should not be kept with regular inmates. I say the same for inmates who need special medical attention as well. The system needs new changes, but for some reason, they are never done.

IronOre 2012-08-03 03:30:09 -0500 Report

What happened to that prisoner happens outside of jail walls too, so to blame "the system" really isn't right.
I concur with Pasummer's comments below, and believe that the prison systems in this country do the best that they can to care for the inmates.
I do know someone who is T1 diabetic, and in jail. I have not heard from him since he went in, but I assume that he is doing fine. It he wasn't I would have heard something.
As far as not being guilty of the crime goes, well . . . are you saying that he should have been treated better in jail because he wasn't guilty?

femaletrucker 2012-08-02 20:34:56 -0500 Report

Why can't it be a mandatory thing to regularly check inmates for high blood sugar? This disease can develop suddenly as it did with me. And im sure the food there doesn't help the situation either. They should be checked when they arrive and monthly to see if the disease is present, or if pre-diabetes is lingering. If its caught in the early stages, it can be stopped. That individual should immediately be put on a strict low carb, no sugar diet… and EVERYONE in the prison should be taught about the disease. Im not saying prisoners should get preferential treatment, but when I see how our tax dollars are being wasted overseas, might as well spend it on a program for diabetes and the education of the disease, including the food and testing strips.

pasumner 2012-08-01 20:24:32 -0500 Report

I give my perspective as one who works as a jailer in a county jail. In the state of Texas anyway, we have stringent state guidelines/laws we must follow in the treatment of inmates and medical care. Sometime back, we had an insulin dependent diabetic. After a visit one afternoon, his family ask why he was not being given his medication. She was assured that he was indeed being presented with his meds, however, he was refusing them. We cannot force an inmate to take his medications. We will however see that an inmate has the medical care he needs to take care of any medical need. There are extreme cases, like the one I just mentioned. Most, in my experience, to take their meds and wish to be and remain relatively healthy. We do operate, that is, follow the doctors orders involving BS checks frequency, etc. As far as no sympathy for someone who does the crime, doing their time, I do understand. Very much. Again, seeing this through the eyes of a jailer. My experience has taught me thet, in my over 5 years of this field, most are decent enough, know they have made a mistake, and just desire to do their time and get on with their life. It saddens me that it took the near death of this man for the corrections officials to take action. It should not have reached that point. Again, just my perspective.

ndawkins 2017-01-05 19:28:48 -0600 Report

Really? My niece is in Crain Unit as we speak. On multiple occasions her blood glucose has been at 600 and she wasn't even tested for DKA and insulin was NOT given to treat her blood glucose levels. Her nightly glucose levels are ALWAYS above 250 but NOTHING is done to address this. She is barely functional at this point. When we speak to her she can't get words out. She has asked for a doctor but NOTHING has been done. She will not likely make it out of her sentence alive and no one seems to care. So, her sentence for a drug use offense may actually be death. It is unbelievably inhumane and I am sick to death of hearing about the "strict guidelines" that are supposedly followed. If that is the case, why can't I get anyone to pay attention?

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-08-02 05:53:32 -0500 Report

Besides three hots and a cot Colorado has strict guidelines for medical care of prisoners. Believe it or not there are inmates who chose to get arrested for minor crimes so they could get some free medical treatment.
There are more criminals uncaught out on the streets among us than innocent victims of an unjust legal system in prison.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-01 23:55:50 -0500 Report

pasumner, the times I went into the prison including SuperMax to get someone, most of the calls were bogus. A guy in Supermax being transported back to his cell fell down a set of metal stairs and claimed to break his leg. We got him into the ambulance and off to the hospital we go. As we were pulling up to the hospital he said with a laugh thanks for getting him out, he needed a break from jail. We could not take him back so he is now in an ER with a guard and a police officer watching over him taking up space a sick person needed.

People make choices everyday. However, when you choose to commit a crime and go to prison, you deal with the consequences of your actions. I do not feel sorry for you at all. The people in prison I feel sorry for are those who committed no crime at all and spend 20 years only for someone to find out they really did not commit the crime.

There are people not in the prison system who choose not to take their medicine and end up having the same problem as the inmate in your jail. You can't fault the system or the doctor if your illness gets worse. You chose not to help yourself by taking the medication and doing what you have to do to stay healthy.

GabbyPA 2012-08-01 21:51:31 -0500 Report

I have not known anyone personally who has been in jail, but I have spoken with several inmates and I find that most of them are very respectful and maybe that is just to get out on time, but a lot of the crimes people are put into jail for are crimes that have no victim and they shouldn't be there in the first place. Our system is pretty messed up.

pasumner 2012-08-01 22:05:38 -0500 Report

I agree, I have seen from time to time the situation you describe, although not in great numbers. It is indeed an imperfect system, however it is the best system in the world right now. Politics, money, and other things have brought corruption for sure, as well as nerfarious attorneys and others. Reform could help. As for the medical and specifically diabetes care, that needs to be a priority at every level of the justice system.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-01 23:48:01 -0500 Report

What about those in the prison system with heart disease, asthma, liver and kidney disease, vision problems don't those diseases deserve the same priority?

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-02 12:48:23 -0500 Report

I agree. Criminals in this country should be glad they commit crimes in this country. I have seen jails on some of the islands I have visited. You would not want to walk into them simply based on the way they look on the outside and many countries don't care for their prisoners the way this country does.

GabbyPA 2012-08-01 22:10:31 -0500 Report

There are always two sides to a story and no one side is 100% true, as we all have our experiences that color our understanding of things that happen. We do have the best system in the world, and what makes America different from so many is our ability to show compassion. As with most things, time will breed greed and corruption. Prisons are good breeding places for that on both sides of the bars, unfortunately.

Harlen 2012-08-01 20:06:09 -0500 Report

As one that has had a hard life and it would have ben easy to sale drugs do crime for money .You as a pearson must make the choice of doing right or doing rong .
When you show your willing to do rong it is hard to show how your not a drug dealer or a car theif .I didnt turn down that path it would have ben easy to do
Life is hard and it is what you make of it.
Its like when you ask for help but never try to do what you know is right (not that you do that )Save your pitty for somone that needs it
Hugs and best wishes

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-01 14:31:58 -0500 Report

I absolutely cannot feel sorry for anyone who commits a crime and goes to prison Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Yes there are guidelines in place for federal prison healthcare. As long as those guidelines are being met and the prisoner is receiving care he can't really complain.

Gabby I had a cousin who had a revolving door in the State Prison System. Finally, his drug dealing, attempted murder, countless grand theft auto, and assault charges caught up with him and the judge threw away the book. He ended up with life for 2 counts of attempted murder while carjacking someone. He was also a heroin and crack user. His prison physical and blood test discovered he had AIDS. All of his brothers have been in an out of jail because even as kids his mother never believed they did anything wrong and it was the other persons fault. According to his mother if the person had given up the car he would not have shot them. I still want to dig her up out of her grave and slap her silly. As her son got worse she tried to get him out to care for him at home. She was denied. The state provided the care under health care guidelines provided. He died in prison from AIDs. Her youngest son went in for rape, assault with intent and attempted murder. He had diabetes he got care but he too died in prison from diabetic complications. She couldn't get him out either.

My neighbors grandson was in prison. He got sick and his kidney's failed. He was in for 20 years. He needed a kidney transplant from alcohol and drug abuse. He died a month after getting out. No kidney transplant for him while in prison.

I have responded to calls at our state prison and the SPCA's pens for dogs and cats are brighter and more cheerful than the prisons infirmary. The doctor and nurse was there for a certain amount of hours and all prisoners had to be seen during that time period. Mr. Ward is not the only prisoner in Leavenworth so he has to be seen when they get around to him.

I don't concern myself with prisoners. They should be glad they are in prison in this country because other countries do not take care of their prisoners. My concern is with senior citizens who can't get free health care and children in under-served communities throughout this country who need help also. My tax dollars should not be used to help prisoners get better care than people who have committed no crimes and need improved medical care.

GabbyPA 2012-08-01 21:41:59 -0500 Report

If you read the whole story though, you would see that he didn't actually do the crime and was talked into a plea deal that he did out of fear. That is what made it so bad.

I do agree that it is crummy when those in prison get better care than we who are on the outside of the bars. I know I cannot get good care, and if I was type 1 I suppose I would be 6 feet under already. I have read a similar story about a type 1 holocaust survivor who would go for long periods without insulin.

The truth is, we should all be responsible for our own health care. Pay as we go and get insurance and government programs out of it. Let charity and responsibility pay those bills. Costs would drop and we could use any doctor we needed. No one should be getting FREE one. Even in prison, I think they should pay for it. But I also understand how frustrating things can be in trying to get help.

I just felt that his story was very intense and helps us see how much we complain about our inability to get care for our selves, how much more trapped he is.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-08-02 05:45:43 -0500 Report

Perhaps he didn't do the crime. I have grown sceptical of that claim. My hubby lost count of the number of inmates who told him that while he was a corrections officer at one of the states largest correctional facility. The one he related that sums it up best was ''I shouldn't be here. The jury should never have convicted me, they didn't find her body.''

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-02 12:53:45 -0500 Report

Graylin let them tell it none of them should be there. I have two cousins who retired from the prison system as guards and they said the same thing.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-01 23:45:09 -0500 Report

Gabby in the criminal justice system if you don't do the crime never ever take a plea deal. The state has to prove their case against you. Take the chance and go to trial. Once a plea deal is made it is almost signed in solid rock and it is hard to get out or get an appeal because to get the plea deal you have to admit to the crime. This means it is up to you to try to prove your innocence. Public defenders have so many cases they do what they can to get rid of them and you. He was afraid of jail but he wasn't afraid when he committed previous crimes. Karma always comes back to get you no matter what you do.

As for charity, I worked for a non profit, in fact I worked for two of them. Charitable organizations rely on grants, donations and fundraisers. Out of that money come salaries, rent, mortgage, equipment, office supplies, and health insurance for Charities large enough to do that.

The last non profit I worked for was a struggle. My boss constantly applied for grants to keep us working. Currently, the government is working to move people out of nursing homes who don't have to be in them back into their own homes or housing because it is cheaper for the government. Housing vouchers for the poor are almost non existent in some areas of the country. The other non profit I worked for was donation and grant funded. They also had fundraisers. Most of the monies donated came from average citizens who donated through the United Way. Others were people who donated anywhere from $5.00 up most were in the $5-100.00 range. In order to keep their funding from United Way, all employees had to donate money from their salaries. Sure it is easy to say let charities take care of it. In today's economy charitable organizations are feeling the brunt of it due to lower donations.

You pay out of pocket for you health care. What about those of us who have to rely on insurance to offset what comes out of our pockets. What people who are poor and can't afford to pay anything? I don't feel sorry at all for him.

Today I met a neighbor I did not know. Last December, he was outside talking to a neighbor when they saw smoke coming from his house. His neighbor called the fire department while he rushed in his house to get his wife out. He was burned in the process. This man and his wife lost everything. His wife was ill and they were struggling to pay the bills and their home owners insurance was about to lapse when their daughter paid it for them. His wife died in February this year but not because of the fire. This man is 75 years old and his wife was 73. You can say take insurance and government out of health care. It is sad no one seems to care about people who are less fortunate and simply can't afford out of pocket care or to pay fees for health insurance. Why not dig a big hole and wait for them to get sick not have medical care and let them fall into that hole.

GabbyPA 2012-08-06 17:41:22 -0500 Report

The whole idea of sharing this was not to judge the man, but see a fellow diabetic who is struggling. To show that as much as we struggle with our medical care, there are tougher places to be.