Galveston County Jail facing federal lawsuit after series of inmate deaths

GALVESTON, Texas— Attorneys U.A. Lewis and Debra Jennings held a press conference  Wednesday alongside the family of Jorge Cortez to announce the filing of a lawsuit against the Galveston County Jail.

"Because the Galveston County Jail and the private medical care contractors that work for them are not providing the necessary medical care at the jail, and people are dying," civil rights attorney Randall L. Kallinen asserted.

Cortez, 58, was in the Galveston County Jail when his family was informed of his death. According to court documents, Cortez was not aware that he was suffering from lung cancer when he was admitted to the jail.

Cortez began to complain of dizziness to the guards and asked to be moved to a lower bunk, but was denied. When Cortez tried to lay on the lower bunk without permission, he was informed by guards that he would have to get approval from the jail's medical personnel.

Cortez was eventually seen by a private healthcare provider that is contracted through the jail. The contractor, who has been identified as Dr. Soluta, denied the request and prescribed Cortez Ibuprofen.

Court documents suggest that Cortez fell off the top bunk and punctured his lung, causing him to become so ill that he stopped eating.

Cortez's family claims that after his fall they were contacted by family members of several other inmates who were trying to get him help.

Cortez was then brought to Soluta once again, and he was isolated.

"And if that wasn't bad enough, then they didn't treat him for that," Kallinen said. "He grew sicker and sicker and sicker. And eventually, what their solution was— was to put Jorge in solitary confinement."

Eventually, Cortez could not get up from the solitary confinement bed. On June 23, the lawsuit claims a guard carried the inmate to Soluta before he was placed in an ambulance and died.

"He did not deserve to die. He was supposed to come home to us, to his daughters," the deceased inmate's daughter, Jacqueline Cortez-Burlingame, tearfully shared on Wednesday outside the Federal Courthouse in Houston.

But Cortez isn't the only Galveston County inmate to die in custody lately. According to the Cortez family lawsuit, the Galveston County Jail has logged at least five other preventable inmate deaths within the last five years.

[READ DETAILED LIST OF INMATE DEATHS BELOW]

  • June 22, 2018 - Galveston County jail inmate Jesse Jacobs died when Soluta failed to provide obvious medical care.
  • December 22, 2017 - Barry Edwards Phillips an inmate at the Galveston County jail died because Soluta failed to provide obvious medical care.
  • November 15, 2017 - Jerry Louise Biggers-Hill an inmate at the Galveston County jail died because Soluta failed to provide obvious medical care.
  • February 28, 2016 Denise Pope’s unborn child died while  Mrs. Pope was an inmate at the Galveston County jail because Soluta failed to provide obvious
  • medical care.
  • March 15, 2015 - Jesse Clayton Jacobs an inmate at the Galveston County jail died because Soluta failed to provide obvious medical care.
  • June 27, 2013 - Arthur Lee Linear, an inmate at the Galveston County jail died because Soluta failed to provide obvious medical care.