United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
Swisher Press Conference - September 13, 2004
People Need to Stand Up Against Medical Neglect of Inmates
Died at CSP Solano Prison April 4, 2004
April 11, 2004 a
few days after his death
taken at Merced, CA
Donald's five children, Lenette, brother and sisters, nieces and nephews
|A press conference sponsored by United for No Injustice, Oppression
or Neglect, will be held on Monday, September 13, at 1:00 p.m., in front
of the Hall of Justice, 600 UNION Ave in Fairfield, CA.
A lawsuit is being filed Monday morning by Beverly Hills Attorney in the Federal Eastern District Court against California Medical Facility and all parties responsible for the death of Inmate Donald Swisher on April 4, 2004. Swisher, a mentally ill inmate, was 34 years old and leaves behind five children who live in Merced. His mother, Beverly Bittner, has flown out here from Indiana and will describe how she and his cellmates begged the prison to give Donald simple medical treatment and they refused.
The cause of Swisher's death was pneumonia. Families of other inmates who have died under suspicious circumstances will also be present including Rev. Andre Shumake whose nephew died at CSP Solano in June. The body of yet another deceased inmate, Ursel Ware, is in the coroner's office undergoing "autopsy" since Aug. 19 and next of kin information has been closed by CDC on this case, so we've had no way to get in touch with the family.
The UNION Coalition of doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, members of the clergy from every denomination and families of prisoners throughout California is standing up to rail against State Murder by Medical Neglect. Three deaths since April in Solano County alone THAT WE KNOW ABOUT.
At issue here also is bills on the Governor's desk for Media Access, Medical Neglect Reform and compassionate release.
In spite of all these deaths flying under the radar of the media, the Governor is not expect to sign the medical neglect reform bill by Mountjoy.
email email@example.com for press release
Contact B. Cayenne Bird, UNION Director
Directions to the location can be viewed here: http://www.1union1.com/alerts.html
Suit over inmate death
Two of Donald Swisher's children (above), Sabrina Covarrubias (left), 11,
and brother Alex, 7, stand beside attorney Mark Ravis during a
news conference Monday on the steps of
Solano County's Hall of Justice. (The Reporter/Brad Zweerink)
The announcement came Monday afternoon at a Fairfield news conference hosted by inmate advocacy group United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect.
Swisher's mother and four of his five young children stood quietly by as their attorney, Mark Ravis of Beverly Hills, detailed the case.
Had prison officials granted Swisher's requests for treatment of his pneumonia, Ravis said, the 34-year-old might still be alive.
The same could be said, according to Ravis, for 41-year-old Anthony Shumake, who died June 28 following a tooth infection. Instead of treatment at a nearby hospital, the California State Prison-Solano inmate was transported to a Manteca facility, where he later died.
The lawsuit, the first of many UNION said it is likely to file, is a step toward prison reforms, Ravis said.
"We have a message to the CDC (California Department of Corrections) and for the CMF ... that Donald Swisher, Anthony Shumake and all the inmates are human beings and they deserve to be treated like human beings," he said.
The lawsuit names as defendants CMF Warden Teresa Schwartz, a sergeant, six correctional officers, two doctors and 100 not yet identified CMF or California Department of Corrections employees "charged with providing and/or ensuring that prisoners receive necessary medical care."
In March, Swisher developed symptoms of pneumonia such as "fevers, coughing, increasing fatigue and shortness of breath," according to the suit.
Requests for treatment apparently went unheeded.
On April 4, "Swisher was so weak that he was unable to walk. His breathing was labored. At about 10:30 a.m., he turned blue and died," the document states.
An autopsy conducted the next day by Arnold Josselson, a forensic pathologist with the Solano County Coroner's Office, states that Swisher died as a result of acute bronchopneumonia.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants negligently, recklessly and intentionally trampled on Swisher's civil and constitutional rights to medical care. As a result, the document states, Swisher died and the plaintiffs suffered general damages in excess of $75,000.
The family is asking for general and punitive damages, prejudgment interest, legal costs and other relief.
CDC spokeswoman Margot Bach declined to comment pending investigation of the lawsuit.
CMF spokesman Lt. Steve Norris acknowledged receipt of the lawsuit, but declined to comment because of the pending legal action.
Kimberly K. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
P.O Box 85
Garden Valley, Ca. 95633
Statement by B. Cayenne Bird, Director
Press Conference for the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the Donald Swisher family by Attorney Mark Ravis of Mark Ravis and Associates
September 13, 2004
Three people have died in Solano County prisons since April under suspicious circumstances. As long as the UNION will tolerate state murder by medical neglect and a general failure to protect the safety of those taken captive by our government, needless deaths will continue to occur.
Today's filing of a lawsuit on behalf of Donald Swisher, a young man who had a short prison term due to a parole violation is a necessary action. It is also our statement that deliberate indifference to prisoner medical needs in taxpayer financed institutions will not be tolerated by the families and friends of prisoners.
The families of prisoners are innocent crime victims. The California
Department of Corrections views the three million family members connected
to prisoners as being too uneducated to end the cruelty and corruption
that is breaking our hearts and killing our family members. CDC believes
that the families of prisoners cannot organize one large voting group with
the common sense and financial ability to file lawsuits when prisoners
die from medical neglect or abuse.
We have spent six years pleading with politicians put into office by
law enforcement labor unions to do the right thing and give addicts and
the mentally ill treatment that would heal their afflictions. As
the dead bodies continue to pile up around us from nothing more than
Almost all of the people here today have lost hope that there could ever be justice in our criminal justice system because it is corrupt from arrest through parole. This system chose to punish a young, mentally incapacitated man who suffered a head injury instead of healing him. A parole violation for simple narcotics possession turned into a death sentence for Donald Swisher.
As I stand here with his five children and grieving mother today, I am ashamed that my native state has deteriorated to this embarrassing level of inhumanity that rivals any Third World country.
We as taxpayers do not want our hard-earned dollars used to destroy individuals and their families because of medical and mental illness. We as voters do not want our First Amendment Right to Freedom of the Press abridged. We have a deceased inmate named Ursel Ware who has been undergoing "autopsy" since August 19 and we still do not know his cause of death. The Vital Statistics people say that CDC is the next of kin yet we know that Ursel Ware has a family in the bay area who doesn't know that the UNION would like to support them during this time of sadness and loss.
The UNION is outraged over the high death toll in California's mismanaged prisons but we are equally as outraged at the cover up and lack of information about the medical and mental conditions of our family members before and after they die or are permanently disabled from their treatment. CDC lists at its website only a couple hundred deceased inmates per year. This is because inmates that pronounced dead on arrival at the hospitals do not get included in these statistics.
The media may not know the true totals of lawsuits due to inhumane practices but the records at our website indicate at least $400 million have been paid out in prison and jail mismanagement during the past five years.
The Donald Swisher and Anthony Shumake deaths are the straws that break the camel's back. We are prepared to stand up to this Goliath system for the many years that any attempt for justice requires.
The families of the UNION will be there insisting on prison reform, an end to medical neglect, complete access by the media to taxpayer financed institutions and compassionate release of the terminally ill.
This practice of punishing addicts and the mentally ill making them much sicker than before they were incarcerated is from the dark ages. It does nothing to deter or reduce crime. All it does is destroy people for the rest of their lives.
The UNION is standing up to it and fully supporting the Donald Swisher
lawsuit and any others that are related to State Murder by medical neglect