(CN) – The Sheriff of Harris County, Texas is endangering the lives of inmates by denying them and their family members access to personal medical records critical to the care of their chronic conditions, according to suit filed by an inmate and his mother.
Plaintiff Matthew Collazo, an inmate in the Houston jail, said he suffers from several medical conditions, and as a result has made several to facility’s clinic since 2009. Fearing that he needed treatment that’s not available in the jail, requested access in May to his jail clinic medical records, only to have that request denied by Sheriff Adrian Garcia two weeks later.
A similar request by his mother, co-plaintiff Julie Collazo, was also refused, despite the fact she has a valid power of attorney from her son.
In their complaint, the two express concern that Matthew Collazo’s treatment is part of a pattern of substandard care that resulted in 101 inmate death between January 2001 and December 2006.
They site state and county records and interviews with the family members of deceased inmates that suggest almost one-third of the deaths involve questions of inadequate responses from guards and staff, failure by jail officials to provide inmates with essential medical and psychiatric care and medications, unsanitary conditions in the jail through which some 139,000 inmates pass each year, and two allegations of physical abuse by guards.
“[In] at least 13 cases, questions were raised over whether inmates received needed medications prior to their deaths. Eleven deaths involved infections and illnesses suggesting sanitation problems, and in 10 other cases, death reports suggest possible neglect,” the complaint said.
The Callazo’s note that the U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into medical care issues at the jail, and say they would like to speak to “government officials and the public” about the issue, but need his medical records through July 1 to do so.
The mother and son seek injunctive relief in the form of a temporary restraining order, a release of a copy of his jail clinic medical records, and court costs.
In addition to Garcia, the defendants in the case are Michael Seale, the official in charge of the Harris County Jail clinics, and the county itself.
The Callazos are represented by Randall Kallinen of Houston, Texas.