Lawyers for an Alabama man facing a serious medical crisis will seek his compassionate release from state prison.
After his family sounded the alarm about his deteriorating condition at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama, 32-year-old Kastellio Vaughan was moved to another facility where he is receiving medical treatment. However, a lawyer for the family said the emaciated man needed a higher standard of care than he receives at Staton’s Medical Observation Unit to recover.
His legal team is seeking an “immediate transfer” to a “real world hospital”. The group of top civil rights lawyers in the country also disputes reports that the man is refusing treatment.
“We have never seen this. We have never seen a prisoner say, please send me back to prison. This hospital is too comfortable,” attorney Lee Merritt told Atlanta Black Star.
Kassie Vaughan posted before and after photos of her brother Kastellio on September 21. He had lost 75 pounds since she last saw him in late July, and prison officials removed her from his contact list. She received the photos of someone in jail with a message: “Get help.”
Kassie rallied to support her brother on social media and created an online petition and fundraising account. Kastellio Vaughan’s situation has caught the attention of lawyers Merritt, Ben Crump, Harry Daniels and thousands of others on social media.
Vaughan underwent surgery in August for an infected gunshot wound from 2013, his family said. The man had part of his intestines removed and, rather than letting him recover in hospital, his family said he was placed in general population on the same day of his operation. Vaughan’s condition deteriorated due to inadequate facilities, abuse and medical neglect, his family’s legal team said. He now weighs 100 pounds, according to his sister.
His attorneys said other men from the prison were helping to care for Vaughan. They made him a makeshift adult diaper and took turns changing him. One of the men sent his sister the urgent message when things got serious.
“That’s not even a commendation given to him by the Alabama Department of Corrections. It was him and other prisoners trying to do their best under the circumstances,” Merritt said of the diaper.
Vaughan’s condition now at Staton is no better than when he was at Elmore, the attorney added.
“Their care, their resources to tend to his injuries and to treat his condition is no better than the Elmore facility it was before,” Merritt said.
According to lawyers, he was still in a wheelchair, struggling to eat and his wound from the operation had not healed when his family contacted him.
“There is pus coming out of his scar. His stomach is stretched out and he needs immediate medical attention or he will die in this facility,” Merritt told Atlanta Black Star.
The Alabama Department of Corrections said in a Sept. 24 statement that Kastellio was walking and eating in Staton’s infirmary. Officials said he sought and received medical treatment at least 11 times in his prisons between July 30 and September 22.
“As a result, he received appropriate medical treatment and/or care each time. As part of that care, he spent at least 13 days in the institutional infirmary,” department officials wrote. “Furthermore, he was treated at an outside hospital three times in the same time frame, resulting in major surgery lasting at least 17 days in hospital.”
AL.com reports that department officials said Vaughan was twice admitted to Jackson Hospital in Montgomery and asked to be released on medical advice.
“ADOC provides a constitutional level of care to all inmates. However, detainees are not required to receive care, just as civilian citizens have a choice whether or not to receive care,” the department wrote.
According to the prison system manual, an incarcerated person must inform a prison officer of their need for emergency care.
“Any emergencies or injuries will be prioritized by health care personnel and then investigated or treated accordingly,” the manual says.
Daniels said the question arises as to what level of care Kastellio received under the department’s supervision.
“Incarceration doesn’t mean you have the right to be inhumane,” Daniels told Atlanta Black Star. “If you are in prison, you have the right to medical treatment, to medical care. In fact, you are entitled to a dentist. If you have high blood pressure, if you’re going to have heart surgery or any of those things.
He added: “You have to understand that if the state takes care of you, then the state is responsible for you, and the state can’t say, ‘Oh, you didn’t want to do that, and you don’t want to. not to do that.’ A person has the right to refuse anything, but at some point you come to a point where you can no longer refuse. And in Mr. Vaughn’s situation – weak, unable to walk, unable to eat, unable to clean himself – is a clear indication that this person lacks the faculties and ability to care for himself.
Vaughan’s family have visited and spoken to her since Kassie’s first social media post. His legal team is working to secure an in-person visit with him, which he is entitled to under the law. With support from the US Department of Justice and the ACLU of Alabama, his attorneys plan to campaign for his compassionate release.