A Searing Portrait of Abuse

A Searing Portrait of Abuse
Posted by CN Staff on November 25, 2005 at 20:04:14 PT
By Colbert I. King
Source: Washington Post
Washington, D.C. -- This is the 12th column to be written about Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old man who was paralyzed from the neck down at age 4 after being struck by a drunk driver. Magbie lived at home with his mother, needed private nursing care at least 20 hours a day and was totally dependent upon others because he couldn't use any of his limbs. He got around in a motorized wheelchair that he operated with his mouth, and his breathing was aided by a tracheotomy tube and an implanted diaphragmatic pacemaker.
Of all the accounts obtained and reported about Magbie's treatment while in custody of the D.C. government, this IG report, which I obtained from a confidential D.C. government source, contains, by far, the most horrifying and disgusting details. It documents incompetence, neglect and dishonesty. And it describes the unforgivably slovenly behavior directed toward Magbie once Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin so inexplicably turned over a quadriplegic to the D.C. Department of Corrections on Sept. 20, 2004.And why?Because Magbie pleaded guilty to the possession of marijuana found in his vehicle, which was being driven at the time by his cousin. Magbie, purchaser of the weed, was a first-time offender. Retchin, who the record shows was fully aware of Magbie's incapacitation, nonetheless sentenced him to 10 days in the D.C. jail, to be followed by probation and the payment of a $50 victim's assessment.The city got its hands on Magbie on Monday. By Friday, he was dead.We now know the truth -- or as much as can be learned without a public trial with witnesses forced to testify under oath -- thanks to City Administrator Robert Bobb, who refused to accept an obscenely weak investigative report by the D.C. Health Department's Health Regulation Administration that was issued a few months after Magbie's death.The IG's 64-page report should be a must-read for Retchin, Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King and all other judges and magistrates who sentence men and women to the custody of the D.C. Corrections Department. The correctional officers and medical staff who handled -- or, more accurately, mishandled -- Magbie are still in place, drawing their paychecks.Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee, which oversees Corrections, and David Catania (I-At Large), chairman of the Health Committee, which oversees the Health Department, must also read this report. The agencies under their jurisdiction make a mockery of the council's vaunted oversight.Oh, yes -- the bureaucracy can produce written policies and procedures that make them appear as models of efficiency, as the IG report notes. But noncompliance, as in Magbie's case, is the rule. Those departments are, in truth, peppered with full-strength, trifling workers who get by doing next to nothing, all on the taxpayers' dime. The problem is that most of their supervisors, quality-wise, aren't much better.This much we now know, thanks to Mr. Bobb and the IG:The D.C. jail could not provide Magbie with the ventilator he advised both the jail and Greater Southeast Community Hospital that he needed. Magbie was taken to Greater Southeast the first night of his incarceration because of respiratory distress, but the hospital nonetheless sent him back; Greater Southeast staffers "knew there was no ventilator at the jail," the IG reported. No rationale for that decision could be documented.The CTF and the D.C. jail, despite Retchin's representation in court, were not prepared to accommodate Magbie's medical needs.The CTF's nurses did not follow doctor's orders, properly document their care or give the full range of treatment and care ordered and required.There is no documentation that CTF physicians made daily rounds, no physician progress notes for two days of Magbie's incarceration, no up-to-date information on his health, progress, changes or needs.There is no Health Department oversight of the CTF and jail medical operations, thus allowing both to function "at higher risk for undetected, systemic problems and medical errors that could affect inmate care and health," the report says.The detailed description of their noncompliance is enough to make the blood boil.The IG lacked authority to investigate the Superior Court's officers and employees involved with Magbie. Too bad. The court will never tell on itself. So we may never learn the fate of the medical-alert form that Magbie's lawyer filled out about his client's condition as Magbie was taken off to jail after sentencing.The IG report said a Superior Court official stated that a court employee gave the form to two contract correctional officers who took custody of Magbie. The correctional officer who received the court paperwork stated, however, that it did not contain a medical-alert form on Magbie.We don't have an independent evaluation of actions by Superior Court judges, officers or employees, who by law are above the city's reach. Don't count on any help from the D.C. commission that oversees judicial conduct and is chaired by William Lightfoot, a personal-injury lawyer and former politician. I'd rather turn to the three blind mice.Maybe with the Superior Court's congressional protector, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), occupied with his own problems, Capitol Hill will review the court's actions both before and after Magbie's death. Otherwise, the public and Magbie's family will be treated with the contempt that court officials reserve for inquiring minds in the press.Finally, I would urge a close reading of the IG's page of contradictory statements -- a list of conflicting testimony by witnesses with direct knowledge of the events involving Magbie. Truth, unfortunately, is still taking a beating.But the tragic and unnecessary death of Jonathan Magbie may have one saving grace: We've finally got the goods on a rotten system.Sidebar: Magbie Experiences Respiratory Distress at [Correctional Treatment Facility] September 24.[District Fire and Emergency Medical Services] paramedics arrived at approximately 9 a.m. During an interview, one stated that they found Magbie 'unconscious, very sweaty, and sitting at a 45-degree angle in his wheelchair.' His diaper was saturated with 'very dark' urine and his catheter drainage bag was filled with 'tea-colored urine.' One of the paramedics stated . . . that it appeared that 'Magbie had not been cleaned for several days.' His pupils were fixed and dilated. Paramedics could not get Magbie to respond verbally to a 'pain stick' or to ammonia.Both paramedics stated that the CTF physician they consulted upon arrival informed them that Magbie probably had been in this state for several hours before being noticed. . . . They assessed his vital signs as unstable and determined that he needed to be transported to the hospital immediately. . . . The paramedics stated that they were delayed approximately 20-30 minutes because CTF officials would not let them leave before transport paperwork had been completed and Magbie's blood sugar level had been taken. [CTF physicians denied this when interviewed.]The paramedics could not get their stretcher into Magbie's cell, and the medical staff did not know how to operate his wheelchair in order to move it into the hallway. Consequently, Magbie was lifted out of his chair and taken out of the room to the stretcher.One paramedic stated that while they were trying to move Magbie out of the CTF as quickly as possible, a correctional officer was trying to handcuff Magbie.* Excerpt from "Special Report: Quality of Care Issues Related to the Custody of Jonathan Magbie," October 2005, by the Office of the Inspector General, Government of the District of Columbia.Source: Washington Post (DC)Author:  Colbert I. KingPublished: Saturday, November 26, 2005; A25Copyright: 2005 Washington Post Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles: 'Top-Floor' Treatment in D.C. and Local Attorneys File Lawsuit for a 'Death of Neglect'
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Comment #11 posted by Hope on November 28, 2005 at 06:59:56 PT
This is what media is supposed to do...
It's one of their most important jobs. This is a great example of the power of the media. If the Washington Post hadn't reported this story and kept it alive, it would have been swept under the rug along with countless others that are ignored and forgotten. I'm so thankful that the Post didn't allow that to happen with the terrible injustice done to Johnathan Magbie.
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on November 26, 2005 at 16:21:45 PT
I really understand why you do what you do. For me it would get me angry and when I'm angry all I can do is be angry. My temper is best kept in check. I watched a show on Genocide last night right before I went to bed. I couldn't go to sleep for awhile because I was trying to figure out what causes such hate. New Orleans is like a melting pot of all different cultures, religions, races and lifestyles. I don't feel that blending in with others is wrong or that it would corrupt me somehow. The one thing that was said that extreme poverty is one of the issues that can set up genocide. We have class separations like never before and we better be careful or a revolution will happen.
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Comment #9 posted by kaptinemo on November 26, 2005 at 15:59:08 PT:
FoM, I don't much care for arguing, either
But we have few means of fighting back against our persecution, and the ability to debate is one such means. I don't get much out of it, despite what I write. I hate the necessity...but also am forced to admit that that necessity has caused me and the other reformers, here and in other sites, to hone the skills of argument to a sharp edge. Call it a form of evolution if you like. Reformers have been forced to evolve the tactics we must use because the oppressive environment of cannabis prohibition requires it. We don't have legions of police and lawyers and Fed officials, all paid from taxes, to fight for us; all we have is ourselves, the truth, and our ability to convey that truth. Nothing would make me happier than for the necessity for all this to end, but our opponents have made it clear, partly through what happened to one helpless victim of their 'tender mercies', that they possess no mercy. They don't care how many of us they kill...until they are held up to the kind of criticism that Mr. King has rightfully exposed them to. DrugWarriors have shown time and again that they only have shame for their transgressions in a Confucian, not a Christian sense: they express remorse *if they are caught, and only then*. Mr. King has caught them out and shown what cannabis prohibition ultimately leads to...and people like me make sure there's a sufficiant amount of additional conscience pricking as a follow up.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on November 26, 2005 at 09:36:14 PT
I don't like debating since it's arguing and arguing makes me angry and I just get so angry when I get angry! LOL! Just kidding but not really. I figure that people that want to fight need to find something productive to do to bring their cause into the forefront. I have noticed no matter what the topic is on different message boards that there are people that want to fight because they like fighting but I call that trolling. I'm glad to know you are OK.
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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on November 26, 2005 at 09:23:45 PT:
Hi, FoM, and all the good folks of CNEWS
And I hope you and our CNEWS 'family' had a Happy Thanksgiving as well. My apologies; I've been monitoring things at CNEWS but just haven't been doing much commenting here; for a while, I've been crossing rhetorical swords with antis in a few other Websites. And as usual, I've been sorely disappointed at the sheer lack of a decent sparring partner; my opponents have been making a poor showing as usual. They simply have forgotten the lost art of debate, and descend into trollish repetition and insults almost immediately after their 'facts' are challenged. But it's kept the 'turkey knife' very sharp indeed. But I'm quite tired of turkey, both the actual bird and the prohib fools that merit that moniker. It gets boring after a while; they are like a third rate entertainer who only knows 10 songs. Like Muzak, it gets annoying to hear the same old tripe again and again and again. But it's fun to see the mental gear jamming that takes place when they realize you've jumped into the fray with a rhetorical trench knife in one hand and a pistol in the other and intend to take no prisoners. They aren't used to being challenged forcefully, and true to their natures, fold up into little balls like potato bugs and shout their tired, worn out and false slogans that much louder. Pathetic. But it's all they can do when challenged by a reformer who is seriously p.o.'d at their lies and insults.Sometimes I feel guilty that I have so much fun doing so...and in cases like Magbie's, the Corral's, the Monson's, the Raich's, the countless others who are suffering and dying because of this drug prohibition insanity, I stop feeling guilty, and a snarl crosses my face. The antis have much to atone for, and I wouldn't want their karma.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on November 26, 2005 at 08:11:59 PT
It's good to see you. I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on November 26, 2005 at 07:50:39 PT:
Hi, I'm from the Gub'mint; I'm here to help you!
Before WW2 got into full swing, Hitler was already ordering the deaths of thousands of his own countrymen whose lives were deemed by the Nazi Party as 'not worth living': Take a look at the poster that was included in the Website; ask yourself how many American pols are thinking the same thing...about illicit drug users? How many judges? How many police? How many behind-the-scenes 'kingmakers' like Karl Rove? How many people in position to obstruct drug law reform? We already *know* how they feel: Darryl Gates, the progenitor of DARE, stated publicly that cannabis users should be taken out and shot. How 'compassionate' is that? I'm hearing as I write this the ghostly, mocking laughter of all those monsters who were hung after the trials at Nuremburg; WE wouldn't follow in the Nazi's footseps. WE are special; WE'RE Americans! WE don't do that kind of thing! WE don't kill poor crippled quadraplegics! That's inhumane! That's un-Amurkin'!And happened.
Jonathon Magbie's life was pathetic enough, but he was living before The State intervened with it's 'compassion'. Now he - and Lord alone knows how many others whose names we don't know - is dead as a result of that 'compassion'. After all, the intent is to SAVE the citizens from the scourge of drugs, yes? So they won't suffer and die Mr. Magbie most definitely did.Funny way to 'save' someone, isn't it?I always was suspicious of the term 'compassionate conservatism'; Mr. Magbie's horrible, tortuous death is a good example of why everyone should be.
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Comment #4 posted by charmed quark on November 26, 2005 at 07:28:20 PT
No national coverage
In spite of the Washington Post article, I've seen no real national coverage. I mean, this is a double indictment: our jails are places of cruel and inhumane punishment without proper medical care AND we throw people into this environment and kill them over medical/personal marijuana use.Well, at least that judge taught Magbie a lesson. I'll bet Magbie will think twice before using THAT medicine again.
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Comment #3 posted by legalizeit on November 26, 2005 at 06:48:34 PT
If this involved anything other than medical cannabis, it would be national news. Protests would be happening, legislators would be dreaming up more laws feebly aimed at preventing similar events in the future, and the NAACP would be making a fuss because Magbie was Black.But why no widespread public outrage on all levels?So many people in this case have Magbie's blood on their hands -- most notably Retchin, whose sentence was so outrageous that her state of mental health is in question, and let's not forget ex-Rep Bob Barr, who invalidated a legally conducted vote in favor of legalizing the medical use of cannabis in DC.No one will ever be held criminally liable in this case (the blood-stained wolves protect each other), so the family has every right to sue the key figures to the poorhouse!
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Comment #2 posted by Toker00 on November 26, 2005 at 05:28:11 PT
Cruel and Inhumane.
I keep thinking my government can't possibly make me any more disgusted, then this. This is the absolutely purist form of SHAME I know. Everyone involved in this should be fired then stuffed into the prison system they support so much. And they wonder why some people hate their governments.Wage peace on war. END CANNABIS PROHIBITION NOW!
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on November 25, 2005 at 20:13:57 PT:
Handcuff a quadrapalegic?
When the law stops making sense......
I wonder how many people Jonathan assulted with his herb before they "got" him?Are you "fed" up yet?
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