Jail inmates sue over medical care

Four inmates, angry about being denied basic medical care, personal-care supplies, legal reference materials and counseling, filed a lawsuit against Butte County Jail last week.

The suit consists of more than a hundred pages of handwritten papers alleging the rampant misuse of jail funds that are supposed to be spent on inmate welfare. It also charges that the jail’s grievance procedures are a sham, and that inmates are routinely bullied into silence about their complaints.

The inmates, William Price, Bradley Partlow, Daniel McIntyre and Mickey Glisson, are asking for damages amounting to $350,000 from each of 10 defendants, including Sheriff Scott Mackenzie, the five members of the Board of Supervisors, two correctional officers and two of the plaintiffs’ former lawyers. The suit also asks for a judge to appoint an ombudsman to review inmate grievances and for the county to correct “illegal, unfair and unsafe” conditions in the jail.

William Price, who wrote much of the complaint, was one of the inmates who in 1986 successfully sued the Butte County Jail, charging many of the same injustices to inmates. That suit resulted in a consent decree requiring some monitoring by an outside source, but Price contends that jail officials have “routinely, and as a matter of course” managed to skirt it.

In handwritten, sworn statements, all four of the inmates wrote that their basic medical needs were not met, that when they complained about the lack of prompt medical attention guards ignored or lost their complaints, and that much of the food provided to them was spoiled.

“When I have complained about this, I’m often told … ‘It’s all like that,'” Price wrote of the spoiled meals.

The inmates also complain that much of the jail’s Inmate Welfare Fund, which is funded by inmate purchases from the jail commissary and phone surcharges, is being misappropriated by Mackenzie and the jail staff. One by one, the inmates note that upwards of $83,000 from the fund was spent on jail office supplies, auto body repair, fencing and other administrative needs.

“That money is supposed to be for the education, welfare and benefit of us, but that’s not what it’s used for,” wrote McIntyre.

Jail Commander Capt. Dick Waugh noted that Mackenzie has full discretion on the spending of the Inmate Welfare Fund, and that “inmate welfare” is a term that can be broadly interpreted.

“There’s many ways to determine what inmate welfare is,” Waugh said. “… That’s something that’s been determined all over the state.”

Mackenzie could not be reached for comment.