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
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.