Family vs. Georgia jail's policy

Saturday, April 26, 2014 3:17 PM
Last updated 7:39 PM
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 SAVANNAH Ga. -- For more than two weeks, Matthew Loflin's family members dealt with uncertainty, angst and grief as he lay motionless in a bed at Memorial University Medical Center.

When they were able to see the 32-year-old, who was in a vegetative state, it was for limited amounts of time at first, and two things amplified the already-difficult situation. Despite his condition, Loflin was shackled to his bed — for 14 days — until just two nights prior to his death on Thursday, and a sheriff’s deputy stood guard close by 24 hours a day.

 Loflin had been an inmate at the Chatham County jail since Feb. 6, when he was arrested by the sheriff’s office on several drug charges, and he remained a prisoner after a doctor on April 8 sent him to the hospital for treatment of an unspecified medical condition.

 His family said his heart stopped, and loss of oxygen to his brain caused irreparable damage.

 Even then, he remained a shackled inmate until Tuesday evening, when Chatham County Superior Court Judge Penny Haas Freesemann ordered him released on his own recognizance.

 At that time, Loflin’s leg restraints were removed and the deputy standing guard left, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Gena Bilbo.

 The court order was needed to release Loflin from custody, Bilbo said. Despite the unusual circumstance, it would have been against policy set up between the sheriff’s office and the hospital to do otherwise, she said.

 “It is our policy that as long as somebody is in our custody at the hospital, they have to remain handcuffed and a deputy has to be there to guard them,” Bilbo said.

 Grieving family members say removal of the shackles gave them a little bit of solace. They had been working with a public defender to make that happen in the days before Loflin’s death.

 “It’s been a great relief to his mother and his grandmother and myself that when he does pass, which is imminent, he will not be trussed up like a pig,” Loflin’s stepfather, Joe Maley, said late Tuesday. “We will have to deal with the grief of his passing, but it made a difference.”

 Loflin’s mother, Belinda Maley, said Loflin was on a ventilator from the time he was hospitalized, and that doctors had said he would not have recovered.

 Belinda said her son did not have a living will, power of attorney or advance directive — legal documents in which a person details decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time — set up at the time of his incarceration.

 As someone who works in the health care industry herself, she said she had talked with her son about people being kept alive via mechanical devices. Her son would not have wanted to go through what he experienced in the final days of his life, Belinda said Wednesday.

 On Thursday afternoon, Loflin was taken off the ventilator following a doctors’ consultation with family members, Joe Maley said.

 Loflin died later in the evening with his mother at his side, Maley said.

 “Thankfully he had been released from his shackles through (public defender Kimberly) Price’s efforts and was allowed to die with dignity,” Joe said in an email.

 The sheriff’s office also would have liked to get Loflin released from custody while he was in the hospital, Bilbo said, but the felony drug charges he faced — possession of a controlled substance and possession of imitation controlled substance with intent to distribute — meant a judge needed to make the call, she said.

 Additionally, had been arrested while out on bond for a charge in Liberty County, she said.

 Joe Maley said he didn’t understand that logic after reading about a now-fired South Carolina police officer who was able to bond out of jail here on an aggravated assault charge.

 “What we have been are actors in the theater of the absurd,” he said.

 Michael Notrica, a spokesman for Memorial, said he could not comment on the matter due to patient privacy issues.

 Chatham County Public Defender Michael Edwards declined to comment on the case.

 His time in jail

Family members say they have questions about Loflin’s medical conditions while he was in the jail, but sheriff’s office officials say they cannot provide his medical care records to media due to privacy issues.

The Maleys say they visited Loflin on March 31, after another inmate’s wife called Belinda to tell her Loflin was ailing and had been placed in the infirmary.

When they saw his face on one of the screens used for visitation, he didn’t look well, Joe Maley said. He fell into a coughing fit toward the end of visitation.

“Their response every time I called there was, ‘He’s resting comfortably and has 24-hour nursing care,’” Belinda Maley said. “And I went through that for, I don’t know, four or five days: ‘He’s resting comfortably and has 24-hour nursing care.’

“I’m never going to get that out of my brain.”

Belinda Maley said the only time she talked to a doctor at the jail, he told her Loflin had been taken to a specialist and diagnosed with a heart condition. She said she wishes Loflin had been hospitalized sooner.

Loflin was placed in the medical unit of the jail March 26 and had 24-hour care, Bilbo said. On April 8, a decision was made to take him to a doctor’s office. That doctor, she said, sent him to Memorial.

“No medical care was impeded or interrupted in any shape, form or fashion by him being in custody,” Bilbo said.

The Maleys said they were unable to see Loflin again before he was admitted to Memorial.

When he was released from custody Tuesday evening, he became responsible for paying for his own health care, Joe Maley said.

“We were advised that the judge said once she signed this order, the cost of his care would shift from the county to the family, which in this case would be Matthew himself, since he’s an adult,” Joe Maley said.

Prior to his arrest, Loflin was “basically homeless” and he had no health insurance, Maley said.

Reporter Jan Skutch contributed to this story

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oldredneckman96 04/26/14 - 06:04 pm
Drug Dealers

While everyone can have sympathy for the family having to deal with a member dying it is hard to have any for this drug dealer. When you become entangled in the drug world there can be no good outcome. There are rules in place to protect the public from criminals and these have to be followed harsh, as they may seem now. If we, as a society, do not want have drugs ruining the lives of our family members, we must remove drug dealers from society. If there was no one around to sell this young man his first drug, he might be alive today.

corgimom 04/26/14 - 07:22 pm
Unfortunately, drug users

Unfortunately, drug users often die from heart conditions. And being in jail, and detoxing, is very stressful on the body. He also lived a very unhealthy, stressful life.

More drug users die from heart, kidney, or liver problems than overdoses. Illegal drug use kills people.

But I'm not sure what the point of this story is.

Their son was homeless, a criminal, and a drug addict. What did they expect, that he'd live a long, healthy life?

Fiat_Lux 04/27/14 - 08:22 am
Just can't lay off

even when a probably blameless family's suffering and grief over the lose of a loved one in custody is the story. They probably expected he'd die, and he sure wasn't going anywhere anyway by the time he got on the ventilator. Shackles at that point are cruel and unusual at best.

It's stunning how callous someone must be to be so smug and dismissive about what his mother was dealing with.

It's hard to hold your dying baby, even if he has tumbled far from grace, when he's chained hand and foot to his bed.

corgimom 04/28/14 - 08:54 am
Nobody is above the law.

Nobody is above the law. Nobody. And people have been in comas and not expected to live, and then miraculously awakened.

People have been put on ventilators and come off of them too. People have been thought to be hopeless and then recovered.

If it's callous to think that nobody is above the law, and that things have to be done in a certain way in order to protect all of the parties, then fine, call me smug and dismissive.

The man that died was in custody, and had not given any directives as to his final wishes, and so it was up to a judge to decide as to what to do and a court order had to be issued. And it was.

And you may not like that, but that's the way it is when somebody is a prisoner.

When people choose a bad life, they cause terrible pain to their loved ones, and innocent people suffer. His parents were very fortunate that they were able to hold him while he was dying- most families of prisoners are not allowed to do that, which is something that perhaps you don't understand. That is NOT the norm.

Shackles for a comatose patient are NOT cruel and unusual, it's the law. And I you can't understand that, I don't know what to tell you.

And it's ok with me if you think that I'm smug and dismissive. Works for me.

corgimom 04/28/14 - 08:57 am
But as I see this story, Fiat

But as I see this story, Fiat Lux, the family seems to think that something was done improperly, and it wasn't. They seem to think that they were mistreated, and that he was mistreated, and they weren't and he wasn't.

What I see is that family plans to sue the county, and this story is just the first step, even though the county didn't do anything wrong.

gregleopard 04/28/14 - 09:16 am
Sad Day For All

I know nothing about the man who is the subject of this story but I wish his family the best. I understand both his family's position as well as the position of the law enforcement in this unfortunate situation and so I am glad that the Judge ruled as she did and as relatively quickly as she did.

I find it unsurprising that posters (lets be honest here, trolls) get on this site and espouse their hate and contempt for others while hiding behind their little screen names. I wonder if they would do the same if their names were known? I find it interesting that the AJC doesn't seem to have the troll problem on their site even though Atlanta is 10 times our size.

The proliferation of Augusta Chronicle Website trolls is a story I would love to see the Chronicle report on.

Fiat_Lux 04/28/14 - 12:03 pm
Haven't been here much, have you Greg?

If you had, you'd know quite clearly that, as much as corgimom and I generally dislike and sometime find offensive what each other posts as comments, neither of us believe the other to be a troll. Nor do the other people who frequent the comments forums appear to think that. It doesn't cause a ripple if you do.

If you want to see some real screeching, go visit the Savannah Morning News comments. Even I found that crowd too much to stomach.

gregleopard 04/28/14 - 03:51 pm
Glad To See Some Good In This City

Very stand-up of you, Fiat_Lux, to correct me on this matter, especially in relation to a presumed ideological rival. I hope you are correct in your assertion and will simply take you at your word. Having said that, I'm still tired of people not just seeing the worst in people, but actively seeking out the worst in people by interpreting the facts in the worst light possible.

And truth be told, I get on this site occasionally, but not as often as, perhaps, I should. I just imagine this guys family reading the article online and then reading the comment section where that family member's deceased child/grandchild/father/uncle/brother is ripped to shreds and all but told "he deserved it" based on such limited facts.

Bodhisattva 04/29/14 - 06:47 am
Ironically, much of the hate comes from self proclaimed "christi

Ironically, much of the hate comes from self proclaimed "christians". They must have read about a different Jesus than the one in my copies of the Bible.

Fiat_Lux 04/29/14 - 11:08 am

Same old, same old.

I imagine your idea of Jesus and what Christians are supposed to be like resembles the truth only to the extent that all concerned have human DNA.

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