Almost from the moment Lamekia Dockery entered the Elkhart Community Corrections (“ECC”) work-release facility in Goshen, Indiana, she told guards she was having severe stomach pains and needed medical attention. For six days, she begged to go to a hospital, only to have corrections officers ignore her. Then, on the seventh day, she was dead at 36.
Guards noted her complaints, but added that although she was lying on the floor and couldn’t breathe, “she was talking just fine.” Unfortunately, Dockery’s death is just one of many that could have been prevented had guards taken an inmate’s complaints seriously.
No Medical Staff
Unlike prisons, a work-release facility like ECC often has no medical staff. That means an inmate’s illness or injury may go untreated since the only alternative is sending the inmate to the hospital. Dockery, like many other inmates, had a drug habit, and guards often think the inmate is going through withdrawal – a bad enough experience in itself – rather than suffering an illness.
Withdrawal is tough, but addicts generally survive. That wasn’t what was wrong with Lamekia Dockery, however. An autopsy showed she was septic, most likely due to a perforated intestinal ulcer. Had she received prompt treatment, she likely would have lived.
Not only is there no medical staff available at ECC, but the guards do not receive even rudimentary medical training. After her death, some of the corrections officers were shocked that someone could die from “a stomachache.” During Dockery’s ordeal, one staff member emailed others that the inmate said she hadn’t eaten while at the facility, and attributed her stomach pain to lack of food. Dockery was given a Tylenol and Alka Seltzer as treatment.
Vomiting, Moaning in Pain and Screaming
If the guards thought Dockery was faking or exaggerating her discomfort, they must have thought she was giving a performance worthy of Meryl Streep. Their logs and facility emails show that Dockery was “vomiting, moaning in pain and screaming” throughout the time she spent at the facility. Rather than have her taken to the hospital, corrections officers put her in solitary confinement. When she kicked a door in frustration, Dockery was shackled.
Single Mother of Five
Dockery was a black single mother of five children who lost custody of them after school officials found burn marks on one of her sons. Her family said the burns occurred when Dockery’s boys were roughhousing. Once she lost her children, Dockery’s life spiraled out of control, and she was soon homeless. She had arrest records in several Midwestern states for marijuana possession and shoplifting, to which she pleaded guilty. When she arrived at ECC, a drug test revealed the presence of methamphetamine, among other substances. The results had her placed in lockdown immediately. However, meth withdrawal symptoms do not include vomiting.
Inmates Want Justice for Dockery
While guards downplayed her pain, inmates heard her begging for help “incessantly.” The Sunday after her death, several inmates who were allowed to attend a nearby church’s services stood up and testified about her ordeal and death. They said they wanted justice for her, with one inmate saying, “I close my eyes and I can hear her cry.”
In fact, it was the inmates, pooling with little money they had, that purchased the Tylenol and Alka Seltzer for Dockery out of a facility vending machine. Inmates say Dockery kept repeating that she was going to die.
No Criminal Charges
It’s unlikely there will ever be justice for Dockery, because under Indiana law, there is nothing with which to charge the corrections officers or ECC. Unlike many other states, Indiana does not consider inmates dependents, so there is no criminal liability in failing to help an inmate in a situation such as Dockery’s. Federal prosecutors could pursue criminal charges, but that is a rarity. If there is any justice for Dockery forthcoming, it would most likely come via a civil suit filed by her family. The family is considered such a filing.
Inmates have the right not to be abused. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.