August 12, 2004 - Rally
Rev. Andre Shumake (center) addresses a crowd
Families rally to decry system's failures
By Kimberly K. Fu/Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2004 - The family of Anthony Shumake, 41, is still reeling over the California State Prison, Solano inmate's death on June 28.
And though more than a month has passed since he died, they said answers - and the aid of prison officials - continue to elude them.
On Thursday, the Richmond man's three sisters, grandmother and uncle - the Rev. Andre Shumake - gathered at the state Capitol with dozens of other inmate families to decry the problems plaguing the prison system.
Among the cache of speakers were professor Michael Vitiello of McGeorge School of Law, who expounded on alternative sentencing and the failure of the Three Strikes Law, and Robert Driscoll of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese Detention Ministries, who condemned what he saw as a failed parole system.
Rev. Shumake shared his family's personal pain and rallied for more community involvement in stopping what he described as "state murder by medical neglect."
Anthony Shumake apparently suffered from a dental infection that caused his neck to swell and prevented him from eating for six days, his sisters said. Instead of transporting the inmate to the nearest medical facility - VacaValley Hospital, about a 10-minute drive from the prison - he was transported to Doctors Hospital of Manteca, about a 2 1/2-hour drive. He subsequently died.
What especially angered the reverend was that the inmate's sister, 29-year-old Toya Shumake, was notified of the death via voice mail.
"To add insult to injury, later that afternoon, Anthony's grandmother, Annie Shumake, received a telegram stuck inside her screen door," he said. "It indicated that, not only had her grandson, Anthony Shumake, died, but she had 48 hours to claim his body or the state of California would cremate him."
The method of notification, and continued treatment of the family, lacks respect, dignity and sense of humanity, he said. Other inmate families, he added, were no doubt treated the same way. But all could change that if they banded together.
"In spite of my family's personal pain and suffering, and the suffering of other families... I still have hope. If the (California Department of Corrections) is to be transformed, we the people of the great state of California must move forward with the expectation that we can make a difference," he said. "We must all have hope. ...When men and women of good will come together, the impossible becomes possible.
"Brothers and sisters, this is no time for apathy and complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action. We must have a restoration mentality."
Anthony Shumake's sisters said they're concerned for all inmate families, but their focus remains on what happened to the older brother they described as loving, mild-mannered and full of heart.
"We lost our mother seven months before he had passed. He said, don't worry, when I get out, I'll take care of you," remembered LaShun Shumake, 38. "Then we had to plan his funeral."
Kimberly K. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autopsy won't end questions
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 - Roughly two months ago, California State Prison inmate Anthony Shumake underwent what is normally considered a routine dental procedure - the removal of a wisdom tooth - at the Vacaville prison.
Six days after the June 22 extraction, following complaints of severe neck swelling, inability to swallow and a roundabout ambulance trip from Vacaville to Manteca, Shumake was dead.
The San Joaquin County Coroner's Office, which released its autopsy findings this week, ruled the death "accidental, complication of therapy" involving hypoxic cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat due to lack of oxygen) and an apparently undiagnosed abscess that caused throat swelling and difficulty breathing.
According to the coroner's report, Shumake, 41, was taken by ambulance from the Vacaville prison at 3:45 p.m. on June 28 en route for treatment at Doctor's Hospital in Manteca. He arrived at 6:20 p.m. and was given anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs.
At 8:57 p.m., the coroner's report stated, "The decedent was in respiratory arrest. The decedent was sitting upright on the bed and had a panicked look on his face and had his hands to his throat indicating he was having difficulty breathing."
Despite medical efforts to stabilize Shumake, including cardio-
pulmonary resuscitation, he was pronounced dead at 9:45 p.m. the same day.
What remains unclear is why Shumake's condition was allowed to worsen for several days prior to his being taken for outside medical care, and why that medical care was sought in Manteca - roughly a 2 1/2-hour drive from Vacaville - instead of in the emergency room at nearby Vaca Valley Hospital, which is about 10 minutes from the Peabody Road prison.
The Department of Corrections reportedly has launched an internal investigation into the circumstances leading up to Shumake's death, but has released no conclusions.
B. Cayenne Bird, founder of the prison reform organization UNION (United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect), charged that Shumake's case is typical of prison medical care in California.
"He obviously suffered. He knew he was sick. He had no place to go," Bird said. "The inmate's life has zero value."
The UNION organization recently sponsored a rally at the state Capitol during which Shumake's uncle, the Rev. Andre Shumake of Richmond, demanded answers.
"As a family, we are crying out for help. We would like to know why the policies and procedures of the CDC are being violated. We are concerned that inmates do not receive proper medical treatment and, in many cases, are actually denied medical treatment," the Rev. Shumake said. "We want to know if CDC guards are trained to recognize serious ailments or behavioral changes that indicate illness. We want to know if the doctors and medical personnel are competent, and, most of all, if they are truly concerned about the inmates' medical needs."
Both state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, also have contacted the Department of Corrections about the Shumake death.
Brian Hamlin can be reached at email@example.com
Deadly neglect in prisons must stop
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 -
The story about the rally sponsored by United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect with the accompanying photo of a bereaved Reverend Shumake and his family shows the underbelly of an out-of-control prison system ("Seeking prison reform: Families rally to decry system's failures," The Reporter, Aug. 13).
The death of his nephew, California State Prison at Solano inmate Anthony Shumake, because of a dental infection was senseless, but so typical of conditions of overcrowding and maltreatment of inmates statewide. The sign over his head giving the name of the sponsoring group beckons to the citizenry to take a stand against such medical neglect.
The politicians allow this as business as usual and the lawsuit payouts for such preventable deaths and disabilities are likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This is tax money that could be going to crime prevention through education, rehabilitation, social workers and creating jobs for young people.
My heart goes out to this reverend and his family. This type of death by medical neglect is being done in our names and with our tax dollars. Only we as citizens can put an end to it.
It's a wake up call that we have to end the careers of politicians put into office by law enforcement labor unions, if they don't do something about torture in California's prisons.
Randy Siple, Davis
Write United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect at P.O. Box 85, Garden Valley, 95633, or see the group's Web site at www.1union1.com - Editor.
Governor needs new view of prisons
Friday, August 20, 2004 -
As with any medical emergency, there exists a "golden hour" of time for treating a patient for an optimum outcome. A compromised airway should have been a life-and-death concern to the doctor at California State Prison at Solano County when he decided to call an ambulance. Who decided that Anthony Shumake could wait two hours for treatment by transporting him 76 miles to Manteca, as opposed to a 10-minute drive to VacaValley Hospital?
This is clearly an opportune time to pass the buck, but don't pass it to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, because it is certainly no sweat off his back if the buck stops elsewhere. Perhaps another major lawsuit for medical neglect may impact his current position of viewing an entire prison facility and posing for television cameras from a guard tower, to viewing the entire prison system from a whole different level. It is time for the governor to step down from his tower and see the prisoners' view from the same level as Anthony Shumake did. Just ask his family if Gov. Schwarzenneger had a clear view of existing conditions beyond his aerial press opportunity.
Got a toothache, governor? No problem. The state can pull it for you. The state Department of Corrections is certainly more effective, accountable and efficient under your watch. Just say "ah," and wait a few days for a followup to see how you are doing. Never mind that you cannot swallow anything in the following six days while you wait. That's probably to be expected if you are locked up, or maybe on lock-down while in prison.
The governor has handed total control of our prisons to CDC, which has clearly demonstrated that they do not rehabilitate, they just incarcerate. "Corrections" is an oxymoron when used to describe a broken system.
Tamra Smith, Eureka
Schwarzenegger Is Posturing on Prisons
August 19, 2004
Re "Judge 'Can Take' Prisons, Governor Says," Aug. 17:
Why is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger making his official press visit to Mule Creek State Prison, a soft protective-custody yard, and not to some of the more troubled prisons for his look inside the system?
This is too much politeness for me, like creating a movie set with toy soldiers and phony promises in a bucolic prison setting. Everyone knows the prison guards union aggressively lobbies down progressive legislation. Schwarzenegger goes where the power is and placates the rest. Just look at that generous pay raise for the guards he allowed to happen while serious programs for the mentally ill were slashed and California cities cannot afford enough police on the street to realistically fight crime.
Having a charming conversation with hard-nosed Judge Thelton E. Henderson and making calculatingly casual comments about a federal takeover of the prison system seem like, well, acting.
Re "Inmates Forced to Sleep on Floor," Aug. 15:
There is one immediate solution to the problems at Los Angeles County jails. It is simple and can save us millions. Allow me to send out this valuable advice to all possible detainees: Stop committing crimes. It's not that difficult. Millions of us do it daily.
Now, for those of you who wish to ignore this advice, please be forewarned that you may get beaten, shot or killed in the course of your crimes. And after you're apprehended, you will quite possibly suffer horrendous conditions and treatment within the court and prison systems.
Now that this has been explained to you, I hope that it will eliminate any sense of shock, surprise, discomfort or indignation you may experience as a consequence of your chosen criminal actions.
Friday, August 13, 2004 -
Thank you for addressing the issue of California's overcrowded prisons. Avenal State Prison houses two and a half times its intended capacity. Wall to wall bunk beds with flammable bedding would create a domino-effect inferno. This risk is acceptable to the California Department of Corrections.
On the other hand, the same department exercises a meticulous accuracy when keeping count in the visiting rooms. One person over the limit set by the fire marshal is cause for a family to be sent away, terminating the visit with their loved one early.
The message here is twofold: Visiting in the opinion of the Department of Corrections is superfluous, and secondly, the Department of Corrections considers the lives of "free people" of more value than the lives of our incarcerated loved ones. We family members beg to differ.
Rose Caragol, Lemoore
Article Published: Saturday, August 21, 2004
More care needed
The $18 million in back payments not paid to the local hospital near the California State Prison at Solano County is most likely the reason that Anthony Shumake is dead. Deadbeat prisons are costing billions, but we can't provide basic medical care? This is a flashing signal that there are too many people in prison.
The taxpayers need to demand the immediate release of nonviolent prisoners right now before any more blood is spilled. If we can't take care of people, we have no business locking them up in cages.
Denise Marks, Sacramento
Article Published: Saturday, August 21, 2004
Lives are at stake
State corrections agency must examine its medical care
An autopsy following the death of an inmate from California State Prison at Solano County raises more questions than it answers.
Why was Anthony Shumake's condition allowed to worsen for days before prison officials sent him for outside medical care? Was anything being done to ease his pain?
The fact that he could not eat for six days and was having trouble breathing seems to indicate a serious situation. So why wasn't his condition considered enough of an emergency to merit sending him to nearby VacaValley Hospital? Instead, officials routed him to a hospital in Manteca, which required a 2 1/2 hour ride.
How did officials fail to diagnose an abscess in Mr. Shumake's throat, which apparently caused the swelling?
Mr. Shumake's condition developed following a routine dental procedure, in which his wisdom tooth was removed. He died June 22, six days later.
The San Joaquin County Coroner's Office ruled the death "accidental, complication of therapy" involving hypoxic cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat due to lack of oxygen) and an apparently undiagnosed abscess that caused throat swelling and difficulty breathing.
In the days following his death, lawmakers have questioned prison officials' decisions in the matter. One of the questions raised by Sen. Jackie Speier was whether a lawsuit between NorthBay HealthCare - which operates VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield - and the California Department of Corrections may have influenced the decision on where to send Mr. Shumake.
NorthBay officials noted that despite the lawsuit, their facility has continued to offer treatment for Vacaville prisoners.
The lawsuit has since been resolved, but the questions regarding Mr. Shumake's death have not.
CDC has reportedly launched an investigation, but has yet to announce any conclusions. We urge CDC to make its findings public, because it is only through acknowledging errors that reform will occur.
Clearly, the CDC needs to take a hard look at how it handles medical
issues within the prison.
Response to letter Correctional officers are doing a tough job.
Even though correctional officers are doing a tough job, it is questionable
as to whether they are doing a good enough job. If correctional officers
were doing a satisfactory job, prison inmates
Yes, people do die every day but not from medical neglect. It is rare for a United States Citizen to die from inadequate medical care, but it is not an uncommon practice for prison inmates to suffer and die from insufficient medical care.
If taxpayers are paying correctional officers 70K - 100K a year to watch over and protect prison inmates, then it only makes sense (as part of their application process and psychiatric evaluations) to include extensive training on how to prevent medical neglect -- so that all prison inmates can serve out their sentences safely and return to society alive and well.
Condensed .pdf file of all the Speeches and many of the Articles