Former inmate files suit over lack of medical care

Contributor: Joe Hart
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Updated: 2/19 5:49 pm
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- In the past year, about three dozen Nevada prison inmates have died behind bars. Prison officials say that number does not represent an increase over past years and it is only a small percentage of the overall prison population.

But one former inmate says he and others were forced to suffer in prison because of the lack of quality medical care. 

Larry Wilgus said it started back in July 2011, when he says he was forcibly detained by a prison staff member, who he claims used excessive force. "I was told to face the wall and place my hands behind my back and when I did I was forcibly detained," Wilgus said.

That staff member, Steve Suwe, had been in charge of offender management at the time, but Suwe is no longer with the Department of Corrections.

Wilgus says the incident left him in serious pain. "On a scale of one to ten, I'd say a ten."

He was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff, and a winging scapula. But he claims the Department of Corrections refused to address the severity of his injury.

Wilgus said he filed more than 60 written requests in an effort to get treatment, including an emergency grievance where he cited extreme pain and limited movement. But he was only prescribed aspirin.

"It was very frustrating," Wilgus said. "I tried every position I could to see a doctor. It was just delay, delay, delay."

Official prison documents show the Department of Corrections denied one of Wilgus' medical grievances in August 2011, stating the grievance was filed after the ten-day limit. But NDOC's own policy states inmates have six months to file a grievance, if the issue involves personal injury or medical claims.

There is a ten-day limit, but that applies to cases involving classification, discipline, religious items and food, according to prison policy. Wilgus said his grievance was clearly about his medical issues.

So did the Department of Corrections ignore its own policy in this case? Prison spokesman Brian Connett declined to be interviewed for our story. In fact, Connett has declined to be interviewed on any topic, since taking over as prison spokesman.

When News 4 arrived in Carson City to try to find someone who could explain the situation to us, or at least tell us why no one at the Department of Corrections would talk about it, they said Connett was the only one authorized to speak.

Instead of answering questions, the Department of Corrections simply referred us to their written prison policy.

Larry Wilgus was released from prison after serving less than a year for receiving stolen property. He underwent surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff less than a month after he was released. Now, he works as a crane operator for a local lumber company.

Wilgus is seeking unspecified damages through the court for his pain and suffering. But he says part of his motivation for suing is to help others who are still behind bars and may be sick or injured. "Hopefully, it will bring some change for the medical care because it really doesn't matter what they're in there for. They have a right to that medical care. There should be no one suffering like that."

Prison Spokesman Brian Connett did issue a statement that he could not comment, because a lawsuit has been filed in the case. But when asked to discuss prison medical care in general, Connett declined that request.

Larry Wilgus' lawsuit has been filed in federal court, because he says his civil rights were violated. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for August.
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AnotherMom - 2/22/2014 8:16 AM
1 Vote
Attention Louie Enos, Yes this AnotherMom has been incarcerated and knows how it is to be under the Care and Control of the state and to have to rely on what is offered to you ,not necessarily what is needed or required ,just what is available to help shut you up.My life is now my own, my debt is paid in full and I can admit my mistakes and move on with a better life and put that time behind me. Thank the Good Lord I was not in need of something extreme while I was part of their system. There is enough injustices in our world without the State officials being a corrupt government organization, and using our tax dollars to benefit themselves with no due regard to the sick and injured that are suffering behind the closed doors of our prisons.. Just because we don't see it does not mean it's not happening , and it's the total disregard for others that you have Enos that is disturbing and wrong. Go back and stick your head in the sand where it was and please take some real deep breaths...We really don't care about your lame opinion cause that's all it is and all it even will be......

ThinkAbout - 2/21/2014 3:21 PM
2 Votes
Nvcure has also been fighting to make a change as well. Thank you nvcure for backing up and guiding the prison victims. Also, for spreading the word to address this issue at the prison. I feel the more people that get involved and speak up, the faster will see that medical change at the prison.

nvcure - 2/21/2014 10:46 AM
1 Vote
There is MRSA untreated at the women's prison. The list is long and the issue deserves a fully researched story.

Casper - 2/20/2014 8:31 PM
1 Vote
Enos you don't pay a dime for insurance so beat it cause your the only loser on here.... I'd bet a dollar to a donut your a staff member employed by the N.D.O.C.!!!!!

Casper - 2/20/2014 8:21 PM
3 Votes
Hey there Mr. Enos, I was in prison for a long long time and it was for a crime I really did. I am guilty as sin and I did my time.... I have been out for over 5 years now, live in a nice house with my wife and 4 year old daughter. My wife and I work very hard and I would never do anything to cause me to lose my family or my freedom. I am honestly a new and better human being today and I make both my family and myself very proud...... BUT, when I was FIRST released from prison all I wanted to do was spend the rest of my life getting back at N.D.O.C. staff and the taxpayers of Nevada for funding Ely State Prison to torture me for more than 13 years. But NO WAY Mr. Enos, I could not allow the N.D.O.C. to rent that kind of space in my head. 2 wrongs will never make a right... Just like 2 sickies don't make a wellie..... So all I can say to you is this... get a life dude and when you don't know what to say then say NOTHING!!!! You CANNOT understand what you CANNOT understand!!!!! You Mr. Enos are PATHETIC and you don't know SH%#. Nevada, look into this crap.... I came out of it okay and wouldn't harm a fly but I tell you this from my heart, you are paying to create some monsters. These men like myself will one day get out... I PRAY TO GOD THAT THEY ARE AS STRONG AS I WAS AND CAN PUT THE PAIN AND TORTURE BEHIND THEM AND MOVE ON!!!!!!!!

Casper - 2/20/2014 8:04 PM
2 Votes
I was a prisoner at Ely State Prison for 13 years. The so called medical staff at that place are some of the most ruthless, uncaring, lying and simply put, a DISGRACE to the human race!!!! I still have a messed up hand that was broken and after 8 or 9 emergency medical kites, it finally healed on its own. Same with my shoulder... Thank you gynecologist Steven Macathur. That was a real winner there. There was one Doctor who was there but only for a few short months. He gave me shots of something right into my shoulder that took the pain away for a couple months at a time. N.D.O.C. is PATHETIC!!!!!!!!! Medical??????? C'mon, are you serious??? There is no such thing as "medical attention" at ELY unless its to call the morgue.

nvcure - 2/20/2014 11:19 AM
0 Votes
There are hundreds of lawsuits for denial of medical care. Channel 4 News, how about contacting NV-CURE or at least the ACLU to discuss this when doing a story? NV-CURE has hundreds of documents regarding these lawsuits and denial of care. This story makes it sound like one person one time filed a lawsuit. Very misleading and unprofessional. NV-CURE has been gathering documents for almost three years on this very issue: There are people who have gone blind from lack of insulin, people who are dying and have died from hepatitis without receiving any treatment, untreated broken bones and cancer. There's more. Please do a more well-researched story.

Iknow - 2/20/2014 9:51 AM
4 Votes
The Nevada Department of Corrections is so corrupt it's pathetic! The Department doesn't follow their own rules andregulations regarding inmates OR officers. All the people in charge need to be fired, but Governor Sandavol turns a blind eye.

Tonja - 2/20/2014 8:27 AM
1 Vote
The Board of Prison Commissioners consist of the Governor who is up for reelection, the Attorney General who is termed out, and the Secretary of State Ross Miller who is running for the AG's office. These people knew that during the Discovery process of the wrongful death, newly discovered evidence came out the Attorney General's Office had withheld exculpatory evidence in Nolan Klein's case. This evidence that was withheld from the Federal Court and by brother. It was instrumental to Nolan in winning his case especially, since the Judge kept about it put had no proof. Nolan lost his case. I discovered the document in Discovery from the AG's office. As it turns out the same DAG who was representing the State against me in it was the same DAG who represented the State in Nolan's civil case and the one who withheld it from the court and him. When I brought this to the Board's attention what this DAG had done, the DAG was their stepped in and claimed confidentiality based on the Settlement Agreement. This DAG requested that everything I said and the docs. I presented to t be stricken and removed from the record and it was. I presented the Board with the Settlement Agreement and they continued to silence me until I filed suit and served them nearly 2 years after that meeting. To this day not all of the public docs. the deposition of the NDOC Warden and the NDOC Doctor that I provided them to that would be beneficial to the inmates, their families and the public have ever seen the light of day. The AG's office have filed their Motions to Dismiss and I filed my Opposition on Tuesday. Now I have to wait to see what the judge does.

Tonja - 2/20/2014 8:13 AM
3 Votes
Dear ThinkAbout I appreciate your kind words. Please remember this those Board of prison Commissioners who oversee the NDOC (prisons) are up for re-election. These people have been informed as to the ongoing problems within the NDOC and have either turned a blind eye to the truth, put a band aid on the problem or covered it up. I know I'm back in litigation with them for breach of settlement agreement and defamation in the wrongful death suit.
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