Official drafting letter to hold jail administrator in breach of its contract

Saturday, December 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A Tulsa County official is drafting a letter recommending that the private company running the Tulsa Jail be held in breach of its contract for not properly administering medication to a convicted killer.

John Selph, chairman of the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, alleges that Corrections Corporation of America violated its contract to run the facility when Wayne Henry Garrison was not given psychotropic medication in liquid form.

CCA incident reports showed that Garrison, 42, was breathing and snoring throughout the night but that staff could not wake him during medication calls at 10 p.m. Tuesday and 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Garrison was hospitalized in critical condition early Wednesday, the same day his sentencing hearing was scheduled to begin. Initial reports indicated that Garrison was being treated for an overdose, but his defense attorney said he had a history of strokes and could have suffered another one.

``The fact that he was given the anti-depressant and he was not given it in liquid form is in itself a violation of the contract,'' Selph told the Tulsa World on Friday. ``It's simply inexcusable.''

The authority put the liquid drug rule in its contract to prevent unstable inmates from hoarding drugs or not taking them, Selph said. There also was concern that Garrison was not placed in the infirmary for a suicide watch after a jury convicted him of killing 13-year-old Justin Wiles in 1989.

``I think anybody who is convicted of first-degree murder should definitely be put on a suicide watch,'' Selph said.

CCA spokesman Chris Howard said Garrison was released from the hospital Friday and returned to the jail. He said Garrison is now on a suicide watch in the medical unit as a precautionary measure.

Howard would not comment on the reason for Garrison's trip to the hospital, citing Judge Jesse Harris' admonition not to discuss the prisoner's medical status.

A police report indicates that officers responded to the jail Wednesday ``in reference to an overdose'' involving Garrison. The report lists the incident as an ``attempted suicide.''

CCA records show that staffers were under orders to check on Garrison every 15 minutes following his conviction, and logs show that he was checked throughout the night.

When Garrison didn't get up to eat breakfast and guards couldn't wake him at 6 a.m., a medical emergency was declared and an ambulance arrived 2 1/2 hours later.

Reports indicate that a powdered substance was in the bottom of the trash can in Garrison's cell and that undissolved pills were in his toilet.

Selph said he has been told that Garrison's blood test came back with elevated levels of what was apparently psychotropic drugs.

CCA was cited in a July audit of its medical unit for not administering any liquid psychotropic drugs except Lithium. The audit noted several drugs available in liquid form, including the drug that Garrison reportedly was taking.

In a response to the jail board in August, Warden Jim Cooke said liquid psychotropic drugs were not being administered but that ``drugs are crushed prior to administration.''

Cooke noted that the corrective action to be taken was to change its national pharmacy vendor and have corporate officials ``contact the vendor regarding the procurement of liquid psychotropics.''

``It hasn't been done,'' Selph said.

Cooke would not comment on the use of psychotropic medications at the jail.

Garrison is scheduled to return to court Monday for the resumption of sentencing proceedings.