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Large Quantity of Pain Medicine Goes Missing at an Indiana Prison

Jason Reese

Synopsis

  • More than 8,000 doses of a frequently used pain medication are missing from the New Castle Correctional Facility, an Indiana prison.
  • Prison officials say they discovered 8,114 missing doses of gabapentin, a medication used to treat nerve pain and seizures.
  • It’s been said by health care professionals that this type of medication is increasingly abused in prisons and should be treated like a controlled substance.
  • The government is responsible for providing medical care to prison inmates and about 175 to 215 of the New Castle facility’s 3,155 prisoners are prescribed gabapentin.
  • Although the Indiana Department of Correction is sure to be investigating the matter, the missing drugs raise concerns about prescription medication practices in Indiana’s prisons.
  • A private company recently took over medical and pharmacy services for the state’s 26,000 prisoners under a $309 million, three-year contract.
  • The attorneys at Wagner Reese are just as baffled as you when it comes to understanding exactly how such a large quantity of medication went missing and we plan to continue following this story as it evolves to ensure the safety of Indiana’s jail and prison inmates.

8,000 Doses of Pain Medication Missing from Indiana Prison

Officials at New Castle Correctional Facility recently alerted the Indiana Department of Correction that large doses of a frequently abused pain medication were missing from the prison. Recent news reports say approximately 8,114 doses of gabapentin, also known by the brand name Neurontin, went missing over a two-month span at the end of 2017. This medication is most commonly used to treat nerve pain and seizures but is more often known as one of the prescription drugs heavily abused in prisons across the country. Many state officials, including former prison system medical directors, have said this type of medication should be under double lock and key, preventing offenders from ever accessing the area where the drugs were kept.

An IDOC spokesman, Isaac Randolph told news reporters, “We have since changed the location of the medication. It is now behind a locked door on site and our Intelligence and Investigation team are finishing up their investigation.”

The incident is raising security concerns and medical practice questions from state officials, and the attorneys at Wagner Reese plan to follow this story. We look forward to reviewing any new reports given by the IDOC while they investigate the matter. How important medication used for more than 100 prisoners, packed in large quantities, in a locked cage went missing and mismanaged should be of high concern to the safety of all inmates. All medications should be inaccessible to prisoners, and meticulously tracked and double-checked at the beginning and end of every shift.

Concerns Erupt About the Amount of Gabapentin Being Prescribed at Indiana Prisons

In a local news report from FOX59, some health officials and prison medical directors have even said that “prisoners should be more carefully screened and that in most cases, there are better treatment alternatives to gabapentin.”

Health officials say that gabapentin is not an opioid and is not yet designated a controlled substance, but it can “boost the high caused by narcotics, ward off drug withdrawals and block the effects of medication used for addiction treatment, allowing patients to get high while in recovery.” This can make the drug a high risk to certain prison populations with a history of drug abuse.

It has been estimated that about 175 to 215 of the New Castle facility’s 3,155 prisoners are prescribed gabapentin, according to IDOC. More than 38,300 prescription doses are delivered over a 60-day-run to the New Castle Correctional Facility. Since the State Department of Health does not currently track overdose deaths from gabapentin, it will be hard to find any overdose information related to the drug in Indiana’s prison system.

Gabapentin Linked to Overdose Death

Although the severity of the gabapentin problem in Indiana prison’s is yet unclear, the state may need to follow the many other U.S. authorities who have designated the drug as a controlled substance in their districts. For example, West Virginia has declared the medication a “drug of concern” after overdose deaths involving gabapentin jumped from 36 in 2012 to 106 in 2016.

As we continue to learn more about the missing drugs and how they are being kept and administered at Indiana prisons, there is hope that greater investigations will take place to evaluate future inmate deaths. Most times these deaths are said to be the result of a tragic accident, sickness, natural causes – or in some extreme cases inadequate or insufficient health care, abuse or mistreatment. Regardless, families of lost inmates are left to suffer in their absence and deserve a full investigation to find answers. The law protects prison inmates from inadequate care, for both physical and mental health issues.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the past decade, over 10,000 inmates have lost their lives in both city and county jails. Other related facts and statistics include:

  • Men are eight times more likely to die while in the custody of a local jail.
  • The bulk of inmate deaths are attributed to illnesses, such as heart disease or cancer.
  • Mortality rates for female inmates experiencing an illness are much higher than for male inmates.

Correctional facilities have a duty to their inmates to ensure the safety of those in their charge and may be guilty of wrongdoing or negligence in many jail or prison death cases. And the government is responsible for providing medical support to prison inmates. Inmates may be experiencing punishment for a wrongdoing, but they still have the right to be cared for in appropriate ways, including being provided access to appropriate and timely medical attention and prescription drugs for illness, injury, or physical or mental states.

A Violation of Civil Rights

However, filing a lawsuit against prison officials is more than tricky. In Indiana, there is a statutory cap of $700,000 on damages for negligence cases against government agencies or actors. And many police brutality and jail death cases involve violations of federal civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983. There is no cap on damages in federal civil rights cases, and attorney fees can be recovered from the defendant. Our attorneys understand the complexities of federal civil rights litigation and know how to plead a case, so your claim is not limited by the state tort claims cap.

Wagner Reese has handled numerous wrongful death and jail death cases in our years of service to Indiana citizens. If your loved one has suffered injury or death in an Indiana jail or prison, the wrongful death attorneys at Wagner Reese can assist you in recovering financial damages for the losses you have sustained. Give us a call today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation. Or speak with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.

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