Frontier: State To Investigate TCSO Over Prisoner Injury Reports, Patrol Car Transports
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - The state Health Department is investigating the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office over its failure to report three serious prisoner injuries as required and its use of patrol cars to transporting injured prisoners.
Additionally, records show the sheriff’s office and its medical contractor had concerns about the condition of injured inmates yet they were taken to the hospital in patrol cars instead of ambulances anyway.
The state’s investigation is in response to stories by The Frontier and its media partner, NewsOn6, about problems with medical treatment of prisoners in the jail.
The sister of one of the injured prisoners said she was “stunned and appalled” to learn how her brother, Tohres Busby, was treated in the jail. The 61-year-old man suffered a brain hemorrhage after falling in his cell and striking his head on a bunk. Busby wasn’t taken to the hospital for at least one and possibly three days.
“It’s amazing that we have a correctional facility that is building onto its current facility at this time but cannot even follow policy and procedures to oversee a third-party medical company,” said Trini Brown, Busby’s sister.
In an email to The Frontier late Thursday, a state Health Department official said: “We identified that 3 of the 7 incident reports submitted in May and June were not submitted within the required ‘next working day’ timeframe.”
State law requires sheriffs to notify the Health Department’s jail inspections unit of all deaths, “serious suicide attempts,” and “serious injury to staff or prisoner defined as life threatening or requiring transfer to outside medical facility.”
Deaths require immediate notification while other categories only require jails to submit a report to the state by the next working day. An earlier statement that TCSO did not report one inmate’s death was not accurate, an OSDH spokesman said.
An email to The Frontier from James Joslin, service director of the OSDH Health Resources Development Service, states: “Your report on the transportation of the inmate will generate an investigation to determine whether the means used were not consistent with the policies adopted by the jail and accepted medical standards.
“Where violations of the rule are identified, a notice of violation is issued which includes a list of deficiencies in the operation of the jail and specific proposals for their solution. A jail has 60 days to correct any violations.”
In an interview, Joslin said “most jails are familiar with the requirements for next day reporting.” He said when jails fail to report incidents, “it’s not surprising that it’s with a change in administration.”
Regalado could not be reached for comment late Thursday on the state’s investigation.
In an earlier email to The Frontier, Regalado’s spokeswoman, Casey Roebuck, said TCSO was not aware of the severity of the inmates’ injuries but reported the incidents when it became aware. However that contention is not supported by TCSO’s own records.
After repeated requests from The Frontier, the sheriff’s office released 54 pages of records Wednesday on a recent prisoner death as well as injuries and suicides. The Health Department also released incident reports sent by the Tulsa jail.
Regalado continues to withhold other records, such as jail videos and incident reports filled out by detention officers, claiming they aren’t public records. The Frontier has filed a lawsuit against Regalado, alleging he is violating the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
Among the findings in the newly released records:
- The sheriff’s office did report the death of inmate Leo Horn to the state jail inspector’s office as required. The state Health Department told The Frontier last week Horn’s death had not been reported. The department now says the report was submitted on time and was overlooked because an employee was out of the office.
- Reports to the state about prisoner David Fulps, a mentally ill man whose neck and pelvis were broken in the jail, were incomplete and not filed by TCSO for six weeks. In an internal email, a TCSO captain states: “There was a disagreement … about moving this inmate and the inmate was moved anyway.”
- The sheriff’s policies and state law require inmates with life-threatening conditions to be transported by ambulance. Records show jail medical staff suspected Busby had a brain hemorrhage after falling and striking his head on a bunk. Medical staff recommended he be sent to the emergency room, yet he was taken to two hospitals in a patrol car.
- TCSO apparently did not file a report with the state about a female prisoner treated at a hospital June 8 and 10. The prisoner ingested the street drug PCP, which another inmate smuggled into the jail. No such report exists in documents released to The Frontier.