Terrell Griswold: Mother questions inmate's "natural" death in private prison

terrell griswold.jpg
Griswold.
On October 28, 2010, a 26-year-old inmate named Terrell Griswold was found slumped over and unresponsive in his cell in the Bent County Correctional Facility, a private prison in southeastern Colorado. The official cause of death is listed as cardiac hypertrophy, or an enlarged heart. But Lagalia Afola says the circumstances of her son's death are more complicated than that.

When it comes to the mysteries of prison health care, they usually are.

Griswold was serving a three-year sentence for burglary. Although she lives in Kansas City, Afola spoke with him often by phone. Terrell didn't complain a lot, didn't volunteer much about his health, she says. She knew he was taking blood pressure medication, but she considered him in very good shape, and she was stunned when officials told her that he'd died of a heart condition that couldn't have been foreseen.

"Initially, they just told me that he died of an enlarged heart," Afola says. But over the past year she has tracked down medical records held by the private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America, and the Colorado Department of Corrections; she's pored over the official autopsy report and pointed out inaccuracies to the medical examiner; and she's consulted with a private pathology group, which has reviewed the same records and issued a conflicting opinion regarding how Griswold died and the kind of medical care he received in the weeks leading up to his death.

It turns out that, in addition to an enlarged heart, Griswold also was suffering from obstructive uropathy -- a nodule in his prostate was blocking his urinary tract. He had a history of urinary tract infections and had been complaining of problems with urination dating back to 2007.

"Kidney problems can precipitate heart problems," notes Afola, who has worked as a medical assistant. "I know they [CCA] are responsible for my son's death. All they needed to do was get a catheter in him."

Medical records indicate that a week before his death, Griswold had complained of dizziness, abdominal pain, soaring blood pressure and other symptoms that he believed were related to prostate problems. A prison physician was notified by phone but didn't actually examine the patient; two days later, he wrote a prescription for antibiotics to treat a possible urinary tract infection.

Afola believes her son tried to get medical help more often than the prison's records indicate. "Inmates have told me that he was going to medical almost every day for two weeks before he died, and they would not see him," she says.

His cellmate told authorities that Griswold had been complaining of stomach pain and was frequently attempting to urinate. Hours before his death, he again went to medical, saying he'd been nauseous and vomiting. But the nurse who examined him concluded he was simply experiencing a bad reaction to the antibiotics prescribed for his infection. "He didn't show any outward signs of distress," reads one notation.

In response to information provided by Afola, Dr. Leon Kelly, the El Paso County pathologist who conducted the autopsy, took the unusual step of running additional lab work and amending his report six months later. Although Kelly is still convinced that the enlarged heart is the cause of death, Shawn Parcells, the outside expert whose firm Afola consulted, contends that "complications of obstructive uropathy" would be a more accurate finding.

Given the clinical history, he writes, "Terrell should have been taken to an urologist to have a complete and full workup.... I believe there is negligence in this case, which would be defined as the medical team providing care below the standard of care."

But Parcells is forensic pathologist assistant, not an MD, and medical opinions can vary widely about the causation of death when several contributing factors are involved.

At this writing CCA officials have not responded to a request for comment about Griswold's death; the company has been the target of frequent criticism from private prison opponents and is the defendant in a long-running lawsuit over the 2004 riot at its Crowley prison.

Afola says she has no legal standing to pursue a lawsuit over the alleged negligence. "My hands are pretty much tied for doing anything legally," she says. "But I want to expose these people. I'm just hoping I can make their actions public. I know that my son was not cared for. I know he should not be dead."

It's taken her more than a year, she says, to extract sick call slips that her son filled out, documents that CCA was reluctant to provide and that somehow disappeared and then reappeared in DOC files. She's written somewhere between fifty and 75 certified letters to corrections officials seeking additional information and investigation and has been gently urged to curb the practice.

Yes, Terrell Griswold was a convicted felon. But he was also her son. "These are still people," she says. "It's ridiculous, the kind of care they receive."

More from our News archive: "Catherine Keske, CSU prof, ordered back to jail in parenting dispute over e-mail."

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18 comments
AdvocateforTruth
AdvocateforTruth

It is very sad that people have come to accept inmate deaths as the norm.  People hardly raise an eyebrow when hearing of such tragedies.  But, we should be appalled and disgusted that relatively healthy people who suffer a sudden medical emergency are allowed to die because no one wants to pay the bill.  This problem is wide spread.   How many more young men need to die before the public and the private sector says enough is enough.   Write Corrections Corporation of America-CCA headquarters in Tennessee and tell the CEO and Directors on staff that we demand change.  NO MORE DEATH FOR PROFIT !!!!!!!!!!! 

Crazyskater14585
Crazyskater14585

Who the hell cares. Be would have most likely gotten out and committed another crime. All this dis was prevent that from happening. Another black dude out of the picture. We should all be rejoicing.

cerealmom
cerealmom

A simple blood test could have prevented his death if he did indeed die from the urinary condition.

Catherine Keske
Catherine Keske

This is a very sad situation.  My heart goes out to the Griswolds.  It is very difficult to obtain information about what takes place inside the walls of a detention center or a prison.  There is much that is left to be desired about prison medical care, and it is easy for the public to turn a blind eye when it comes to the medical care in these environments.  This makes wrongdoings much more difficult to substantiate, which makes for a possible "carte blanche" for negligence.  I am of the opinion that all should be entitled to humane treatment and medical care. 

I know that it might be difficult for the general public to have compassion in a world that is anything but that.  However, detention centers must be accountable for their treatment of all in their care.  As a reminder, sometimes the most noble of acts come from those who have "fallen"--the Bible is replete of examples of such situations.  This should be a reminder that all should be treated with compassion and humanity--including Mr. Griswold.

Respectfully,Catherine Keske 

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use freshmozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economycheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to befrozen.--Agedate. ℃⊙M--a nice and free placefor younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact witheach other.

Outspoken
Outspoken

Im OUTRAGAED by that fact Terrell was punished twice for the same conviction. Terrell received three years in prison for robbery, and was again punished by medical neglect from CCA. I dont see the logic in CCA's cause for mistreatment of inmates. The ideal of wanting to save the almighty verses saving a life is ludicrous. Terrell was a human being who made an unwise choice to commit a crime. He was serving out his sentence, when he died from the lack of medical attention. CCA's medical team killed this young man for what a simple antibotic pill could have cured. I would like to take my hat off to Terrell's mom for having the courage to expose what happens behind these prisons. Terrell should be home, enjoying his family and not burried six feet deep.  

Regina A
Regina A

Seems like some kind of coverup is going on their was a lot of signs that he was ill and not getting the help he needed just because your a inmate doesn,t mean your not human to let someone suffer in pain is just wrong and if i was his mother i would be all over this he needs justice and someone is responsible for there actions and taking the steps to cover it up is WRONG.

AdvocateforTruth
AdvocateforTruth

Leon Kelly, the medical examiner in CO, says the death was from an cardiovascular heart disease, and he's sticking with that story.   If hes so confident in that diagnosis, WHY did he AVOID doing every test that would have proved he was right?   This coroner has a 26 year old young man for autopsy with a blocked urethra, urine retention and urine flowing backward into the kidneys.......But, he SKIPS all blood chemistry test for 6 months until the mother complained.........  Any person with an inkling of medical knowledge knows if you cannot get urine out of the body the blood builds up toxins,organs swell as too much fluid builds up in the body, those conditions are deadly and can kill quickly.  Why would a competent coroner miss the obvious?   Coroners earn money from doing autopsies again and again on deceased inmates.  This is a huge conflict of interest, because, some coroners my be willing to sale the alter the truth for the financial gain and the future money to be made.    

Granny J
Granny J

We don't stop loving our family member when they enter the prison system,but expect them to be treated as a human while in the prison system,especially when their health is at risk and they are unable to help themselves.  My grandson death could had been prevented,but due to unresponsible health care treatment and no concern for human life his three year sentence became a sentence to death . As the grandmother of Terrell I too have been sentence to a life of everlasting pain.......While nothing more can happen to Terrell,I hope and pray that health care treatment for the next person that walk in and ask for help will be provided and no other family will suffer the hurt of losing a family member. We all must take a stand and speak up to help those that can't help themselves ...........  

REAHLENEROBERTS88
REAHLENEROBERTS88

I"M TERRELL GRISWOLD COUSIN I HOPE JUSTED IS SERVE. YES, HE WAS A FELON BUT NO ONE DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE A DOG. THE SYSTEM FAIL HIM AND OUR FAMILY WE MAY CANT SAVE HIM BUT MAYBE WE CAN SOMEONE ELSE. THIS HAS BROUHT TEARS TO MY EYES TO READ HOW HE TREATED LIKE HE NO ONE BUT HE WAS SOMEONE SON. ALL PRISION SYSTEMS NEED TO COME UP WITH BETTER MEDICAL SYSTEMS FOR  OUR LOVE ONES YES THEY COMMITT A CRIME BUT WE STILL WANT THEM BACK JUST AS YOU RECIEVE THEM REGARDLESS OF THE WHAT HAPPEN THAT GOTTEN THEM THERE. I PRAY THAT THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN,

Kansan
Kansan

CCA killed a prisoner due to medical neglect?

Not exactly news.  Happens all the time.

Check the cases of Frank Horton and Estelle Richardson in Tennessee.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Anyone who has aided, abetted, or profited from the CCA in any way should be seized, tried, and punished -- anyone who is affiliated with a private prison should be regarded as Public Enemy Number One.

Mrsjacqueb
Mrsjacqueb

you have the right name "CRAZY" God help you if you ever find yourself caught up in the system. not only you but a family member. if and when it happens......make sure YOU continue to REJOICE.

Saralong1
Saralong1

Jerk!!!!  Assuming you have never done anything wrong, crazyskater????  Grow up..hope someone on this website "blocks' your nasty rants!!

timetostandstrong
timetostandstrong

Pal what the hell are you ranting about, Im white and went to prision for robbery sometimes things go wrong we make mastakes. To treat people like this is wrongthere are many whites in the joint that go through this, Its not a black and whiteissiue its a green and greed issue.

Freedomfighter
Freedomfighter

CCA is in it to make money..they don't give a damn about the inmates. I can't believe, we as citizens of this country. Allow an entity to exist knowing that the only way the profit is to lock as many of US up as possible for as long as possible. Private prisons NEED as many people locked up as possible because each person they have counts as another check $$ from the federal goverment. What's worse is the CCA AND GEO both spend BILLIONS lobbying out senators and those who write the laws to "become tougher on crime" and that's why you see these draconian laws on the books sending people to. Prison for things that in the past only had probation/fines as the punishment. IS THAT NOT LIKE GENOCIDE????????????????? ITS. TIME TO SAY NO MORE PROFITING OFF OF THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS!

Crazyskater14585
Crazyskater14585

Learn proper English retard. Fuck you and your stupid SSS cousin that deserved everything he got. I feel no sympathy. If he wasn't in prison to begin with then none if that would have happened.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong take, Freedomfighter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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