Terri Carlisle of Roseburg is suing Douglas County over mistreatment she alleges she received at the county jail.
Carlisle’s claim is a constitutional challenge. She said her Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment was violated by the jail’s staff, and the private company hired by the county to provide medical treatment for inmates. Carlisle said for more than two months she was denied medication she needed to treat her neuropathy. Neuropathy is a serious medical condition in which nerve damage causes pain and weakness, usually in the hands and feet.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene Tuesday, Carlisle alleged that because her medication was withheld, she suffered constant and severe pain in her feet, restless leg syndrome, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
The complaint also states that Carlisle was subjected to inhumane conditions along with other female inmates, who were confined in disciplinary housing for six days. Carlisle said she was in a 12-by-12-foot cell with 12 other women, nine cots, and a single toilet. She also alleges the women were not given necessary feminine hygiene products or adequate toilet paper.
Carlisle was in the county jail for six months, from Feb. 9 to Aug. 4, 2015, on a conviction for driving under the influence of intoxicants. For 10 years prior to her incarceration, Carlisle had been taking the drug Neurontin to manage her neuropathy symptoms.
According to her complaint, Carlisle’s doctor faxed her medical history to the jail the second day she was there, and two days later, a doctor there approved her being given her medication. For three months she received her medications, but then she missed a dose and stored the missed pill in her belongings because she had previously received medical advice that it was better to skip a missed dose than to take it close in time to the next dose. It was after that the pill was discovered during a sweep. She was confined to the disciplinary holding cell. She was accused of “hoarding,” and after that, the complaint states, she was denied her medication for the next 65 days.
Within 36 hours of the medication being removed, the complaint states, she experienced sharp, stabbing pain in her feet that made it difficult to walk. According to the complaint, abruptly stopping the medication is dangerous.
Neurontin is not a narcotic.
Carlisle’s lawsuit specifically names Douglas County, Sheriff John Hanlin and Correct Care Solutions, a Kansas-based company that contracts with the county to provide the jail’s medical services. Individuals named in the complaint include Corrections Lieutenant Mike Root, and physician Steven Blum, who is alleged to have denied Carlisle’s request that the staff resume giving her medication.
Carlisle is represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. She is seeking damages for pain and suffering as well as punitive damages, in an amount to be determined by the court. She also seeks an injunction requiring the county to implement a policy forbidding withholding medication as a punishment.
Representatives of the ACLU of Oregon did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Kelly Simon, ACLU staff attorney, told an Associated Press reporter Tuesday that, “In our criminal system currently, incarceration is punishment — separation from family, community, professional circles, but it’s not the kind of nasty conditions and torture that our client experienced.”
Carlisle told the AP there’s a “difference between discipline and abuse. They need to be stopped.”
“I made a terrible mistake, but believe me my debt is paid. That doesn’t make it OK for them to take it upon themselves to treat me like I’m less than human,” Carlisle said.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office told The News-Review it could not comment on the pending lawsuit. However, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department issued a written statement that the jail was inspected March 21 and found to be in full compliance with all Oregon Jail Standards.
The inspectors, certified by the Oregon Jail Command Council, found the jail in compliance with 307 of 309 standards, including inmate discipline, staff training and inmate health care. The other two standards weren’t applicable because they involve a work release program the jail doesn’t offer, the statement said.