Government & Politics

Children sue over mom’s ‘horrible and preventable death’ at Jackson County jail

Jackson County officials debate the need for a new detention center

Reports of shocking brutality, filth and incompetence within the walls of the Jackson County Detention Center have sparked multiple investigations and no shortage of controversy.
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Reports of shocking brutality, filth and incompetence within the walls of the Jackson County Detention Center have sparked multiple investigations and no shortage of controversy.

ReGina Thurman “died a horrible and preventable death” at the Jackson County Detention Center two years ago, Thurman’s four adult children allege in a new lawsuit.

Thurman was at the jail for more than 12 hours waiting to be processed on a probation violation when she began experiencing severe chest pains. Instead of rushing her to a hospital, the suit claims, the jail’s medical staff dismissed her symptoms as heartburn and gave her antacid tablets, while jailers accused her of overreacting.

Quoting the corrections department’s own report, the lawsuit says that as Thurman lay curled up on the floor, crying in pain, one corrections officer joked that “the lady was suffering from jail-litus (sic).”

Fifteen minutes after that remark, she stopped breathing and had no pulse. The autopsy said she died from a torn aorta.

Regina Thurman obit pic
ReGina Thurman, 53, died at the Jackson County Detention Center on Jan. 20, 2017 after nurses failed to recognize her symptoms as being a serious cardiovascular condition. Submitted photo

But for her jailers’ indifference and reckless disregard, their mother might still be alive, Thurman’s daughters and sons claim in the lawsuit they filed this month in Jackson County Circuit Court. In addition to county government, the jail’s former medical care provider, Correct Care Solutions of Nashville, Tennessee, is named as a defendant, as are two nurses who were on duty that night as well as four current or former employees of the detention center.

This is the second wrongful death lawsuit filed against the county and Correct Care Solutions by relatives of jail inmates who died in custody in 2017. As in this case, the suit filed by the family of Richard Degraffenreid claimed that he was allowed to die in jail, rather than be taken to a hospital for treatment for what in his case was a drug overdose.

The county settled that case for $150,000 last spring. Correct Care Solutions agreed to an undisclosed settlement in January.

Correct Care Solutions terminated its contract with the county last year and a different company was hired to provide care to the nearly 1,000 prisoners at the detention center, its annex and the Regional Correctional Center.

As a matter of policy, the county does not comment on pending litigation.

After merging with a competitor last fall, Correct Care Solutions changed its name to Wellpath. In an email, a company spokeswoman declined to comment on the suit’s allegations because the litigation is ongoing, but said that in general “a lawsuit is only one person’s point of view of what actually occurred at the time.”

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Mike Hendricks is a member of The Star’s investigations and watchdog reporting team. Send tips and story ideas in confidence by email to mhendricks@kcstar.com, Twitter direct message @kcmikehendricks, or anonymously via Signal encrypted message at 816-234-4738
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