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  • mcprison mcprison Mar 26, 2001 11:13 AM Flag

    $235,000 jury award against CCA in TN

    The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

    March 24, 2001, SATURDAY, FINAL EDITION

    SECTION: METRO, Pg. B1

    LENGTH: 369 words

    HEADLINE: JURY BLASTS PRISON FIRM FOR LEAVING INMATE'S JAW WIRED

    BYLINE: Mickie Anderson; manderson@gomemphis.com

    BODY:

    Along with $ 235,000 in damages, an eight-member federal jury Friday handed
    out a stern scolding as well.

    The jury awarded inmate Charles Roy Degan $ 200,000 in punitive damages and $
    35,000 in compensatory damages against private prison company Corrections Corp.
    of America.

    Degan, a CCA inmate whose broken jaw was wired shut, sued the company after
    the wires were left in too long.

    The jurors entered a page-long letter into the record along with their
    verdict. In it, jurors said they hoped to send CCA a message that would "echo
    throughout the halls of your corporate offices as well as your corporate housing
    facilities.

    "That message is that the medical needs of those you serve is a right not to
    be forgotten, omitted, lost, delayed or otherwise denied," they wrote. "This is
    a basic human right, as important as providing nourishment or shelter to those
    who are entrusted to your care."

    The Commercial Appeal could not reach CCA attorney Tom Anderson of Jackson,
    Tenn., late Friday afternoon.

    Degan, a former Germantown pilot serving time at the West Tennessee Detention
    Facility in Mason on a charge of interstate travel to facilitate a murder for
    hire, had his nose and jaw broken by another inmate, the lawsuit said.

    His jaw was wired shut and was to stay that way for five to six weeks,
    attorney Stuart Breakstone said.

    Instead, Degan's jaw remained wired shut from mid-October 1998 until
    Christmas, when Degan spent several excruciating days pulling out the wires
    himself with nail clippers.

    The wires had been in so long that they were embedded in his gums, the
    lawsuit said.

    "He gave himself Christmas Day off," Breakstone said.

    A surgeon testified that he uses general anesthesia when he removes such
    wires, Breakstone said, because a local anesthetic isn't enough.

    Degan spent several weeks at the downtown Shelby County Jail because the CCA
    facility's medical ward was crowded. But his medical records didn't go with him,
    the attorney said.

    Jailers at both institutions ignored his requests for medical attention, the
    lawsuit said.

    Breakstone said the jurors sent a message that "prisoners are people like
    anybody else."

    - Mickie Anderson: 529-6510

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