A former prisoner who suffers from muscular dystrophy has filed a federal lawsuit against Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, claiming he was severely injured in a jailhouse fall after deputies confiscated his walking cane.
Perry Evans, 56, of Jefferson Parish, was transferred to Orleans Parish Prison from a state lockup last year to enroll in Gusman’s re-entry program as he served the final months of a theft sentence.
The jail, which remains subject to a federally monitored reform plan, has been repeatedly criticized in recent years for providing inadequate medical care to inmates.
When Evans arrived at OPP in May 2014, deputies seized the cane he had used at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe and didn’t offer him any alternatives to help him walk, according to the lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court. Evans’ condition causes “extreme weakness“ in his legs and lower extremities, the lawsuit says, “making it very difficult for him to walk or to come to standing from a sitting position.”
“Despite Evans’ obvious medical disability and need for a cane to assist him in walking and the clear risk that he would fall and injure himself without one,” Gusman and his staff “ignored and/or refused his requests to use a cane,” the lawsuit claims.
Two months into his incarceration at OPP, Evans had been trying to participate in “the activities of the institution,” the lawsuit says, when he suddenly felt dizzy and his legs gave out.
“If he had had his cane with him, he could have steadied himself,” the lawsuit says. “But because he did not have his cane with him, he fell backward and hit his head hard on the floor of the tier.”
The fall caused serious head injuries, including a skull fracture, that required several days of hospitalization, the lawsuit says. Almost a year later, it says, he still is suffering from the aftermath of the fall.
“His symptoms include constant vertigo and ringing in his ears, which persist to this day and may never go away,” the lawsuit says.
Philip Stelly, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, declined to comment on the allegations.
Evans, who has several prior convictions, served more than three years for theft and was released in August, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.
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