Dallas Jail: Dallas Morning News Story
Man: Jail neglected wound
Dallas: Months after arrest, he sees doctor; Parkland investigating
12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, June 3, 2006
By KEVIN KRAUSE / The Dallas Morning News
It took a Dallas County judge 10 minutes on Friday to do what jail staff had not done for more than five months – help inmate Jeffrey Ellard get to a doctor to treat a deep open wound in his leg.
Mr. Ellard has been at the Dallas County Jail since Dec. 17, when he was arrested on a felony drunken driving charge. He said he has not seen a doctor since being released Dec. 19 from Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was taken to treat the wound he received from a surgery.
Mr. Ellard said in a letter to The Dallas Morning News that he went weeks at a time at the jail without his dressing being changed and without receiving antibiotics or pain medication, contrary to instructions faxed to jail medical staff by a Parkland doctor. He said in the letter that his pleas for help to the medical staff were ignored.
His is the first case of alleged neglect to surface since Parkland took over health care at the jail on March 1.
Robert Behrens, a hospital spokesman, said Mr. Ellard had a pre-scheduled appointment to go to Parkland on Friday for treatment.
Mr. Behrens did not know when the appointment was scheduled.
He also said hospital officials are looking into Mr. Ellard’s complaint to see if it’s valid.
Mr. Ellard, 49, wrote in the letter that he was forced to stuff toilet paper into the wound to soak up blood and fluids, and to seek out black-market bandages. As a result, the wound has worsened, and the Dallas man and his family are concerned that he might lose his left leg because of an infection that may have spread to the bone.
“I do not want to lose my leg to prove the neglect and abuse going on down there,” he wrote. “It’s really scary what is happening down here and nobody is doing anything to stop it.”
David Finn, a Dallas lawyer who is suing the county in federal court for jail neglect, arranged the emergency court hearing for Mr. Ellard after learning about the circumstances from his family and seeing the wound on Thursday.
Mr. Finn, who handled the case pro bono, said that nothing has changed since Parkland took over jail heath care, and he accused the county of “deliberate indifference.”
Judge Robert Francis of Criminal District Court No. 3 was prepared to order that Mr. Ellard be taken immediately to Parkland to see a wound-care specialist. But after hastily arranged negotiations between Mr. Ellard’s attorney and prosecutors, Mr. Ellard agreed to plead guilty to his charge and serve 10 years in prison.
Judge Francis released Mr. Ellard on a personal recognizance bond Friday so his sister could drive him to Parkland. He has to return to court in about two months for his sentencing. His bail had previously been set at $50,000, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Mr. Ellard’s surgical scar runs about 10 inches down the left side of his upper leg. It’s a reminder of his 12th surgery since his femur was crushed during a 1990 industrial accident when a 1,200-pound transformer fell on his leg, according to his letter.
At the top of the scar, the wound is open and at least 1 inch deep and 4 inches long.
“He was not getting the care he needed,” said Julie Ellard-Levine, his sister. “His leg was oozing. It was infected.”
The jail has failed multiple state and federal inspections, and the county faces a federal civil rights lawsuit over an incident in which a mentally ill inmate nearly died after water to his cell was shut off for two weeks.
The jail’s problems have been blamed on the county’s former jail health contractor, the University of Texas Medical Branch, which decided not to renew its contract this year.
Mr. Ellard, who works as a surveyor, has multiple arrests for drunken driving dating back to the 1970s, as well as drug possession, records show. He has served six years in prison, Mr. Finn said.
Judge Francis warned him on Friday not to drink alcohol or drive or he would wind up back in the jail.
Mr. Finn said the case is further evidence that jail conditions have not improved despite the inspections and lawsuit.
“It’s another example in this disturbing and ongoing pattern of neglect,” he said.