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How Florida Prison Officials Let a Man’s Cancer Progress Until He Was Terminal


Documents uncovered in a civil rights lawsuit show Florida prison officials and medical staff allowed an incarcerated man’s prostate cancer to spread untreated until he was left paralyzed, terminally ill, and afflicted with infected bed sores that rotted to the bone.

When he wrote desperate pleas for help, one official concluded, “This is not an emergency.”

In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last year, former Florida inmate Elmer Williams alleges that corrections officers and nursing staff denied and delayed medical treatment for months after he filed a grievance against them. The complaint argues these delays were not just bureaucratic incompetence but retaliation “intended and designed to prevent [Williams] from receiving a timely diagnosis.” The lawsuit alleges violations of the Eighth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act; it names several Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) officials and medical staff employed by Centurion, a private health care provider that contracts with the FDC.

Williams, 56, spoke to Reason from the hospital bed where he has spent most of his time since the FDC granted him medical release last October, and where he will in all likelihood spend his final days.

“Slowly, slowly, slowly, they just let me fall apart,” he says.

Many of…

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