Last year, the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office saw a spike in the number of inmates who died in custody due to medical conditions, and the county is facing pending lawsuits from the families of two of the inmates.
Three people died while in custody of the RCSO in 2012, in contrast to the years from 2007 to 2011 where there were no deaths reported of inmates in custody.
The first death that occurred in 2012 was Thomas Colardo, a 65-year-old white male from Conyers. Colardo, listed as a property owner and manager, died on March 16, 2012, at 2:31 a.m. after being transported to Rockdale Medical Center.
The cause of death listed on his death certificate was “hemorrhagic complications of thrombocytopenia” and “probable myelodysplastic syndrome,” or disorders related to low platelet count. The onset was listed as coming months before Colardo’s death.
At the time he had been charged with contempt of superior court and had been booked into the jail Feb. 28, 2012.
The next death of an inmate while in custody was Terrance L. Gibson, a 39-year-old black male from Covington. He died July 27, 2012. Gibson was not in the jail but had just turned himself in at the Rockdale County courthouse and was in the holding cell. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations was called in around 2 p.m. as part of standard procedure when an inmate dies in custody at a county facility.
The cause of death listed on Gibson’s death certificate was “acute dry toxicity and heart enlargement.” An autopsy was performed and other conditions reported included possible cocaine or prescription medication overdose and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, where an extra electrical pathway in the heart leads to periods of abnormally fast heartbeat.
At the time, Gibson had been charged on July 13, 2012 with driving without a valid license felony and no proof of insurance and had been sentenced to five years on probation with 90 days to be served in confinement. He had reportedly turned himself in at the courthouse on July 27.
The third death was Albert B. Wilder, 51, of Atlanta on the morning of September 24, 2012, at the Rockdale County jail. The GBI was called in around 5:15 a.m.
The cause of death listed on Wilder’s death certificate was “acute peritonitis” and “ruptured duodenal ulcer,” where a hole has eroded through the lining of the gut wall.
Wilder was facing a charge of simple assault and was booked into the jail on Sept. 22. A temporary protective order had been filed against him for an incident on Sept. 21.
The county is reportedly facing pending litigation from the families of Albert Wilder and Thomas Colardo, according to RCSO Chief Deputy Scott Freeman.
Freeman declined to comment on those cases, due to the pending lawsuits, but previously pointed out these deaths occurred before the current RSCO administration took office in January.
The RCSO also recently changed medical providers from the Correct Health Company to the Nashville, Tenn. based Correct Care Solutions company for a $1.2 million, one-year contract.
One of the favorable characteristics of Correct Care described by RCSO Capt. Mike Kinlein at the April 2 Board of Commissioners meeting was that the company has reportedly “never lost a lawsuit.”
RCSO Chief Deputy Scott Freeman said, “This specific change revolving around the medical services the jail provides is a positive step to prevent any such instances occurring in the future. It’s one of the many steps we’re taking to ensure the inmates are provided adequate medical care.”
Freeman added that the jail is looking at the feasibility of American Correctional Association accreditation, which would include revised medical policies and standards. ACA accreditation is a voluntary process considered the standard of excellence among correctional facilities; much like CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement) accreditation is for law enforcement agencies.
Correct Care already operates in line with ACA standards, Kinlein had said earlier.
“One of the first things they’re going to do is bring us into compliance for ACA,” said Freeman.
“There’s a lot of positive benefits from becoming ACA accredited,” Freeman said. “You protect your county from liability issues. But on the flip side of it, it’s imperative we have best practices in place so we provide the care that is required under the eighth amendment,” of the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.”
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he added.