Lee Michael Creely dies of negligence at Chatham County Jail


This article is the first in a three-part series examining the life of Lee Michael Creely, who died in September 2020 at the Chatham County Detention Center. His death revealed procedural errors by county jail guards and the privately contracted health care company that oversees incarcerated people, many of whom, like Creeley, suffered from drug addictions. While these mistakes led to his death, Creely’s life story sheds light on how many people in our community were born “already left behind” and how lifelong and intergenerational struggles with drug addiction and lack of comprehensive support are not only in their own Life reverberates, but also the entire community.as reporter Katie Nussbaum report In 2021, opioid addiction ‘attacks everyone’.

Before every Wildcats football game, Jessica Hodges’ 13-year-old son peers into the stands, looking for his father’s face.

When Lee Michael Creely died at the Chatham County Detention Center in early September 2020, her teenage son and younger brother lost their father — and their biggest fan.

The season after Lee’s death, her oldest son, a running back at Chatham Middle School, considered quitting football. It’s hard to even put on a helmet without thinking about the guy who taught him how to throw a spiral.

In September before that, he would huddle with his father every time he ran to the sidelines during a timeout to discuss defensive options. The thought of running to the sidelines without his father brought to mind a sense of loneliness and made him start to worry.

He considered resigning.

But he knew his father loved watching him play, so he decided to continue to honor and dedicate to him. For the past two years, his helmet has decals with Lee’s name, birthday and the day he died, with a set of angel wings underneath.

“It felt like he was with me, like he was still there,” Creeley’s oldest son said.

He had his best season last year, finishing with 30 touchdowns.

After the game, he rolled down the car window, lashed out at his father’s favorite emcee Nas, and rapped along.

But grief was never easy for him and his family.

When her 7-year-old son stepped onto the baseball field in his first season, mom Jessica Hodges noticed him burying his face in a glove a few times, sobbing, remembering the guy who taught him how to throw people.

The family attended counseling, and they mostly talked about Lee and how his loss changed them. As dusk turned to dawn, the family huddled in the living room, weeping and praying.

In those moments, Hodges couldn’t help but think about how law enforcement treated her partner, the father of her two sons, the man she met when she was 19 and 21, when Lee Michael and his family were vacationing in Brunswick time, Georgia. At the time, Lee Michael was helping Hodges, who was on crutches when he broke his ankle while playing softball, hobbled out of her red Mustang.

“I was troubled by the way they treated them,” Hodges said. “The fact that he was alone. And they didn’t help him. He shouldn’t have done that.”

These enduring feelings for Lee explain why she spoke on behalf of herself and her children to Chatham County, the Chatham County Jail, the private healthcare provider in the jail, the jail’s founder, and the Owner Correcthealth sued. Correcthealth and prison nurses, sheriff’s representatives and correctional officers.

Review reveals lapses and misconduct

The Savannah Morning News reviewed thousands of public documents — two internal affairs investigations by the Chatham County Sheriff, Correcthealth medical records, two autopsies, jail footage and photos, and police reports — to shed light on how Creely’s death could not be What is simply seen as a consequence of drug addiction is more of a series of missteps, from lack of medication to probation bureaucracy to lax management of private health care in prisons to lack of oversight by correctional officers. All of this is supported by two 89-page Chatham County internal affairs investigations that have uncovered misconduct by guards and nurses responsible for managing and caring for inmates. Most importantly, this case raises the question of how prisons treat repeat drug offenders and whether they provide them with the necessary treatment not only while they are in custody, but also when they leave custody and try to reintegrate into the community .

According to Parla Parker, the public information officer who oversees the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, as of publication, nearly 60 percent of those incarcerated at the Chatham County Detention Center (669 of 1,119) Imprisoned for drug-related offenses. jail. Of the 669, 137 were arrested for drug possession, 304 for drug possession, 46 for drug trafficking and 182 for possession of drug-related items.

“Policy/procedure violations were identified through interviews and review of video footage from September 3 to September 6, 2020,” wrote Lt. Tanya Jacques, Chatham County Jail Internal Affairs Investigator. “Safety checks were not conducted properly, and medical protocols for census checks, general behavior and personal detox were not followed.”

more: Family of man who died in Chatham County jail sues jail, health care provider and county

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Parker said Sheriff John Welcher declined to comment specifically on the case because of pending litigation and referred all questions to Chatham County Attorney Jon Hart. During the call, Hart declined to comment, citing the “local rule” that you do not comment on a case if it is pending in federal court.

Although Lieutenant Jacques conducted detailed interviews with officers, it is unclear whether she did the same to the nurses: The Home Office investigation only recorded a passage about the nurse’s treatment of Creeley – or lack thereof – while he was alive. — paragraphs.

After a flank officer opened Creeley’s cell, nurse Loretta Florence walked in. Florence had a PPD test on Creeley’s left arm and had a brief conversation with him. A minute has passed. Florence picked up her things and walked out of the cell. The deputy sergeant closed the door behind her. It was 7:44am on September 5, 2020, and it was the last time the nurses saw Creely alive.

On September 30, 2020, two court-appointed ombudsmen, Dr. Kenneth A. Ray and Dr. Ronald Shansky, subsequently published an 18-page comment that stated that “CorrectHealth policies and procedures indicate that some related health care The request was not complied with.”

“Examination of the complete electronic medical record indicated that there was no documentation that the treatment provider had followed the treatment protocol,” concluded Ray and Shansky. “In fact, there was no documentation that the inmate received the attention of the medical staff after the protocol was initiated. Some Existing health care policies were not followed. Records show that this death could have been prevented if existing health care policies and standard protocols were followed as written and ordered. People’s availability of documentation, assessments, and treatment worry.”

renew: Sheriff fires fourth officer in Chatham County jail inmate death; one officer arraigned Friday

CorrectHealth’s website does not list a point of contact. The Savannah Morning News contacted the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office looking for a Correcthealth representative. Multiple calls and emails to the Correcthealth Service Administrator and Director of Nursing at the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department, as well as Correcthealth’s top management, went unanswered.

But long before a person is incarcerated, long before they are neglected by correctional officers and prison nurses, something in their life can cause them to commit a crime.

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