Mentally Ill Man Starves to Death in Florida Prison

Mentally Ill Man Starves to Death in Florida Prison

In 2013, Vincent Gaines was sentenced to serve five years in prison on robbery charges. Since Gaines was known to suffer from hallucinations both auditory and visual, state officials recommended his placement in a mental health unit. That was presumably done for his mental health, but the prison system apparently paid little attention to Gaines’ physical health.

He went into prison weighing 190 pounds, a bit overweight for a man standing 5’9”. His intake information referred to him as “stocky.” When he died in late 2015 in the Union Correctional Institution (“UCI”) at age 52, he weighed just 115 pounds, a loss of 75 pounds in 2.5 years. He was found dead in his cell with feces caked on his feet.

Adding insult to this grievous injury, Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”) officials did not inform Gaines’ mother, Lorine, that her son had died, and he was buried on FDOC property. Now Lorine Gaines is suing the FDOC, Corizon Health – which formerly oversaw medical treatment for inmates – and the UCI warden in North Florida federal court.

Traveling from Prison to Prison

Gaines, who was diagnosed as developmentally disabled, bipolar and psychotic, began the 2.5-year journey leading to his death at the Dade Correctional Institution. The facility put him on a “boneless” diet, and that is where his drastic weight loss began.

He experienced hallucinations and defecated and urinated on his cell floor. Because Gaines was written up at various points for disciplinary purposes – including trying to obtain food by unauthorized entry into the cafeteria - he was transferred to Florida State Prison before ending up at UCI.

The Gaines’ family attorney points out that had Gaines been treated properly by the FDOC and Corizon Health, he would have been released from prison by now, adding that he was “sent to prison to serve a five-year term, not to die.”

The lawsuit states that FDOC officials knew Gaines would not eat properly on his own without supervision, and that he died from either gross negligence or deliberate starvation. The lawsuit demands to know how Corizon medical personnel at UCI could not have noticed Gaines’ severe physical deterioration and malnutrition.

Corizon Health Deaths

In the same year that Gaines died, Tennessee-based Corizon Health backed out of its $1.2 billion contract with the FDOC. Officially, the company claimed that it was losing $1 million annually through the contract, but the decision may have been spurred by news reports of inmates dying nationwide from lack of medical care while under Corizon’s supervision.

Since then, numerous lawsuits have been filed against the company, and it has lost several major contracts, including the contract for inmate medical care at New York’s Riker’s Island prison.  

A report issued just before Corizon pulled out of its FDOC contract is shocking. The allegations include three inmates diagnosed with cancer and left untreated, save for ibuprofen. Within just 100 days of privatization of the prison medical care system, inmate deaths hit a 10 year high, and inmate referrals to specialists and hospitals fell precipitously.

Corizon failed to report inmate deaths to the state, and information on inmate injuries by guards was not forwarded. Medical files didn’t include information on a patient’s vital signs or even a diagnosis. Prescription forms were not filled out correctly and remained unfilled.  

Records weren’t just missing – some appeared to have been made up out of whole cloth. One inmate apparently had twice weekly vital signs taken that never changed, except when her weight seemed to rise from 143 to 250 pounds in one week.

Stop the Warehousing

Besides his mother, Gaines is also survived by several siblings. The family states they want more than money from their lawsuit. In a statement, they noted that Vincent Gaines suffered from mental illness for most of his life. They want the FDOC to stop warehousing mentally ill inmates and give them actual treatment. Their statement reads, “We hope that this case will bring about prison reform nationwide.”

If you or a loved one has been mistreated in prison we can help. We file federal civil rights lawsuits against correctional facilities to expose misconduct, medical neglect, and other atrocities. You may also be entitled to financial compensation. CALL US 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn your rights.


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