Woman dies in EBR Prison, community groups call for prison reform

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is in the spotlight after a woman recently died in the prison. 

Community groups said she didn’t get proper medical care.

On Wednesday, prison reform activists rallied on the steps of East Baton Rouge City Hall to demand change in the parish prison system.

“Just to know that she wasted away in our city’s jail, unnecessarily without family by her side, makes me sick to my stomach,” said Timika Scott, daughter of an inmate who died.

Timika Scott, whose mother Gwendolyn Simon died last month from health complications just hours after being booked, said the system failed them. 

“The fact that this is not the first person for this to happen should sicken us all,” said Scott.

EBR Parish Prison Reform Coalition member Ashley White has been fighting for prison reform for years. She said the prison system is not properly addressing the physical and mental health of inmates. 

“Most of those deaths are because of substandard health care,” she said.

EBR Parish Prison Reform Coalition said since 2012 there have been 49 deaths in the EBR parish prison. Some parish leaders say this number may be exaggerated.

The Sheriff’s Department said in a statement:

“By law, the Sheriff is responsible for the security at the prison and to ensure that inmates have access to medical care. The medical care itself is contracted through the City-Parish. The medical staff makes the determination of the necessity and type of medical care the inmate receives.”

“As soon as this month the prison health Request For Proposal will be introduced to the metro council for consideration. The process is prioritizing inmate healthcare, recognizing they are valuable individuals who are worthy of dignity and respect. The development committee for the RFP included medical professionals, community leaders and prison reform advocates. The EBR Prison Healthcare system is certified by the leading correctional healthcare commission in the nation,” City parish officials said in a statement.

Activists have been pushing for a different prison health provider as the current provider, Correct Health’s, contract ends soon.

“We brought in someone to address an existing problem, and the problem has only gotten worse,” said White.

The parish said they will contract with the best provider possible.

The metro council is holding a hearing about the issue on Aug. 11.

UPDATES:

  • In the press event, the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition announced the deaths of two people that died in the parish prison: Gwendolyn Lemon-Jones and Michael Kinberger.
  • EBRPPRC said that on July 20, Lemon-Jones was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and by 6 p.m. was dead.  EBRPPC said that Lemon-Jones spent less than 12 hours in the parish jail.
  • Timika Scott, daughter of Lemon-Jones, talked about her mother. “The fact that my mother wasn’t the first one this happens to makes me sick to my stomach.”
  • Jennifer Kinberger, wife of Kinberger, was not physically present at the event but provided a statement that said, “My family and I naively thought that now that Michael was in jail, he could get the mental health support that he needed.  Instead, he committed suicide by hanging in less than 30 minutes from when he was placed in his cell.  EBRSO was well aware that he was a suicide risk.” 
  • EBRPPRC also said the number of deaths was highest at the East Baton Parish Prison than anywhere in La.
  • EBRPPC urged the community to attend an Aug. 11 Metropolitan Council meeting where CorrectHealth was to give a report.
  • EBRPP demanded at today’s event that the district attorney investigates every death in the prison and to give the inmates the same treatment as anyone else.

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