Diabetes Care in Prison

This post is spawned by Shannon's advocacy over at LADA-dee-da, who writes about the 26-year-old Type 1 diabetic Roddy Dean Pippin who's languishing in Texas prison without what appears to be adequate medical care. She outlines his situation in two posts, initially here and an update here, and those have been echoed in other spots online.

Apparently, he stole someone's cattle when he was 19. In Texas, that's a felony crime with a hefty penalty. He became a "cattle rustler." As a city boy from the Detroit suburbs now living in the Indianapolis suburbs, this is somewhat amusing and mind-boggling to me. However, it's serious and they take it very serious there. And the situation Roddy has found himself in is so incredibly serious. No parole, but staggered prison terms as allowed by state law - eight years executed time, staggered over four 2-year periods. One of the court rulings from a Texas appellate court, dismissing his appeal, can be found here. This complicates the situation, since Roddy since age 7 has had a brittle diabetes and experiences the Somogyi effect, which makes his blood sugars bounce incredibly and can range anywhere from 11 to 600+. Reports are that Roddy's prison care has been substantially subpar, apparently. He regularly experienced Hypos and even went into comas at times, and prison paramedics were summoned. This has taken a toll on this body, no doubt.

In a news release from a PR firm in Oklahoma, Roddy states: "I thought I was sentenced to be incarcerated, not killed."

Multiple reasons might exist for why this isn't happening: budget constraints, being able to keep on qualified nurses or medical professionals, balancing the inmates' issues that have merit with those that don't and may have attention-seeking/dubious motives, or the overall prison culture. Hard to know what, if any, might be factors. But regardless, adequate care must be given in those places to everyone, even those Imprisoned People With Diabetes who only represent roughly about 5% of the nation's overall prison population. As a daily newspaper reporter for a few years, I saw the general county jail population and know what's allowed and not allowed. I've been inside state prisons and reviewed conditions, rules, laws, and often receive inmate letters detailing their specific situations. There are certain things that must be done, and from my review of what Shannon writes, those things don't seem to be happening here. Even those who've broken laws and are serving their time have rights, and must be given adequate medical care that doesn't endanger their lives. That's a foundation of who we are in the U.S.A. and yes, even in that place with the hats and cattle called Texas.

To be clear, Roddy Pippin did commit a crime and he's being held responsible for that. No one disputes he should be held accountable and serve his time. But there's a basic argument here about the punishment fitting the crime. From what Shannon writes, he takes full responsibility for his actions and doesn't deny what he did was wrong. None of that diminishes the fact that it appears to be sub-par health care in prison.

Shannon writes that she's in contact with Roddy, communicating her efforts to raise awareness of his situation and how she's not going to let anyone forget about what's happening there in Texas. She has it exactly right: We must not allow this man's story to go untold - as a Diabetic Community and as a society. These types of situations are becoming more common nationally, and there are any number of lawsuits should one choose to browse federal court dockets. Police agencies throughout the country have also faced challenges for their treatment of PWD, who thanks to Lows that we know all too well appear to be drunk, belligerent, non-compliant. Individuals have led police on car chases in these states, and have as a result been tasered, beaten, shot, killed. It's tragic. Maddening. And we must spread the word about these situations so that they can be addressed, and any gaps in needed services or resources can be filled.

He has a TuDiabetes page, a Twitter account, a Website, and there are news stories all over the place online. Please check them out, and do what you can from your place in the world to tell this story.

This is an important task for the Diabetes Community. Just as important as our advocacy in educating and spreading awareness about the varieties of diabetes. Telling our stories to Big Pharma and Others who make and sell those life-saving supplies we use each day. Meeting and working with Congress to fund diabetes research for a cure, diabetes management tools, and overall health care reform that's so incredibly important. Now, it falls on us to help get Roddy's story out there to the mostly uninformed or misinformed general population and struggling general media, which must be spoon-fed journalism and manually forced to chew before they realize what's in their mouths. Through the Diabetes Online Community, I hope we can make a difference in this important role as we try to do in other avenues of D-Life.


Shannon said…
Fantastic post, Mike. Thanks so much for getting involved and helping to raise awareness. As a community, we should be outraged. Not only because Roddy is receiving inadequate care in prison, but also that *he's* being used as an example of what happens to cattle rustlers in Texas. The powers that be have admitted that they wish they could just hang Roddy like they used to.

I live in a city with some of th worst crime statistics in the country. Everyday, violent crimes are committed by repeat violent offenders. Yet, Roddy, whose crime was a non-violent, first time offense, is sitting in a prison cell (in isolation so that there are no witnesses) dying.

It really makes me wonder just what is going on in Texas.
Former TDCJ employee said…
Roddy is in a medical facility unit just outside of Houston.
Shannon's assertion that "the powers that be have admitted that they wish they could just hang Roddy" is a distortion. The quote should be that he would have been hung for his rustling offense in the past. He not only stole cattle, but broke into buildings and stole other items totaling over $200,000 in value. He was a part of a criminal gang, and an active participant in a number of crimes in Texas and Oklahoma. Not being present inside of the unit, as apparently Shannon and the author of the blog also were not, I can not say if he has been getting the treatment needed or not, or if not, what the reason for not receiving it may be. I do know that in other prison units where I have been in Texas, often the inmate will use his diabetic condition to achieve another goal, often placing his own life at risk just to "game the system".
Amy said…
I live in Charlotte, NC. My son is Type 1 and has been in jail since 9/19. The struggle to get him properly cared for has been very disturbing. I have reached out to the Sheriff, Jail Medical Administrator, Govenor and am currently trying to contact the American Diabetes Association. No one yet has listened at all to my concerns. He too is not arguing about his guilt, but is very scared by the actions of the staff. Blood Sugar lows ingored, meals cut back, denied insulin for up to 8hrs to name a few. Why does something bad have to happen before someone will do something to identify there is a problem. I dont know what to do, but will continue to say what I can where I can until I am heard. Thank you for your story...I hope Roddy gets the medical attention he needs.

brendanjacob said…
Its dusgusting and very scary the way diabetics are treated in jail or prison! It is abuse and neglect and therefor a crime!! WHy is this allowed to go on?? Inmates get put in jail or prison for alleged crimes they have comited and the jail or prison staff are comiting crimes against the prisoners of abuse, neglect and finally murder! SOmehting has to be done!!!

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